Friday night marks the first time Quince Orchard's varsity football team takes the field since an overtime defeat to Old Mill in the 2011 state championship game. Cougars' head coach Dave Mencarini spoke with Patch to preview the season. In Part I of our Q&A (below) Mencarini reflects on last season and looks at the competition in Montgomery County for this season.
In tomorrow's Part II, the QO coach looks at his roster and discusses his team's goals and expectations.
Gaithersburg Patch: You're coming off a great season in 2011, falling just short of the state title. What do you hope your returning players learned from the run last season that they carry over to 2012? What are some things you hope to improve?
Quince Orchard Head Coach Dave Mencarini: I’ll start by answering the second part of your question. I think to improve upon, I just think that I heard this quote from a friend of mine who’s a college football coach. He said “football is kind of like snowflakes. They come in all shapes and sizes and sometimes they stick on the ground and sometimes they don’t.” Even though we have a lot of players back from that team, every year is different. Especially in high school football. I think that’s more so than any level of football just because you might have X number of starters returning and all those other things.
I think I want this team to realize that every single day in practice they have to earn, there’s an opportunity to get better. We are, by no means, a finished product now from last year. Anything anyone is going to write about us at this point in this season has to do with the 2011 season. The 2012 team, there’s nothing. I don’t say it in a negative way but the kids need to understand that whatever someone says about you in a newspaper in August is irrelevant. It’s what they say about you in November and December that really matters.
So we’ve got this humble, hungry attitude that we try to teach and then my other thing is, you always worry about complacency of a group. [Kids say] ‘Well we fell just short of a state title and we have some great players back.’ It’s kind of a sense of entitlement that you worry about as a coach, our guys thinking that they just show up and have ‘Cougars’ across their chest and that means anything. I think our kids have a hard time understanding that we get everyone’s best shot every Friday night. We play a very, very difficult schedule, so we don’t talk about going undefeated, we don’t talk about wnning a state championship. Our goal is to be the best we can be each and every Friday night. And I know that sounds like a cliché but it’s really something I preach about.
Patch: Your team is a perennial preseason favorite, but it appeared some teams, particularly Churchill, are closing the gap. Who do you see as your biggest competition in the Montgomery region?
Mencarini: That’s a tough question. I think that's tough, because if you’re playing 4A in Montgomery County and you get a 3A game with Seneca Valley, there is very little margin for error. Closing the gap, here’s the problem I think, and I’m not saying your question is a problem, but we’ve had so much success for such a long period of time that the expectation is basically just to show up and blow everyone’s doors off and win by 35 points and dominate every Friday night.
You have to keep in mind these are 15-, 16-, 17-year-old kids. If you can relate, and I can relate, you never know what’s going to happen with a 15-, 16-, 17-year-old regardless of talent and ability sometimes. I think, what I appreciate about what has happened in the past and what I hope will happen this year, is some victories are going to be hard earned and some victories aren’t and some losses are going to be great learning experiences and some will be more frustrating. It doesn’t really matter what the score is because at the end of the night someone has a "W" and someone has an "L" so I don’t really care. I really don’t. We win the regional championship over Churchill with seven seconds left against a Churchill team was the best team we played all of last year. I can't believe the game was that close, but you don’t end up in the playoffs, you don’t play in the postseason unless you’re good. That’s the way I look at it.
I think key to that is perspective as it relates to the competition. When you open up with a Sherwood you can’t worry about anyone else. You’re talking about two of the, I haven’t done the research, but I would think us and Sherwood have won more games than anybody the last eight years. So when that’s you’re opener, you don’t really think about what lies ahead.
Check out the to vote for Quince Orchard's season opener against Sherwood.