Editor’s Note: This is the first in a two-part Q&A about the Quince Orchard-Henry A. Wise state championship game. Check back with Gaithersburg Patch Thursday for Part II.
Gaithersburg’s Quince Orchard High School will meet Upper Marlboro’s Henry A. Wise High School in Friday night’s Maryland 4A Division state football championship game.
Quince Orchard hopes to avenge last season’s loss in the state title game, 36-35 to Old Mill, while Wise returns to the title game for the third time in four seasons.
QO head coach Dave Mencarini took some time to share his thoughts with Gaithersburg Patch on Friday’s game.
Gaithersburg Patch: Playing in your second consecutive title game, many of your players have experience from last year's long playoff run and loss to Old Mill. You said earlier in the season that you try to separate 2011 from 2012, and that this is a new team, but how has that experience contributed to the success this season?
Quince Orchard head football coach Dave Mencarini: I think the experience helped in a variety of ways. We were faced with a lot of difficult situations on and off the field in the last 13 weeks of the regular season. Having the veteran guys that you can kind of lean on to right the ship, steady the course, however you want to say it, is important. The other thing is I think once we hit the postseason, week 11, our guys really ramped it up a notch in terms of their intensity, attention to detail and focus, which are all things you need to get to this point.
Patch: Your team had to overcome some adversity early in the season after losing starting quarterback Mikey Murtaugh to injury, but you seemed to turn the page after losing to Seneca Valley. What adjustments did you make to get the offense going under Matt Choi?
Mencarini: We just needed time. We were in a situation where Mikey goes down early on in the Paint Branch game and then we’re forced to play Northwest and Seneca the following two weeks. So there’s not a lot of time that you can spend getting your quarterback ready in time except for the fundamental type things. You’re kind of coaching on the fly, in repetition, and trying to get him good at doing the things that we needed to win ball games early on in the season.
I give all the credit to our offensive coordinator, Josh Klotz, because he kind of sat down and came up with the plan of we can win a state championship with Matt as our quarterback, but we can’t win right now because he needs time. Josh did a great job of putting a plan in place to slowly but surely bring [Matt] along and add little things to the offense each week that will strengthen us in terms of the pass and run game.
Patch: Like your own team, Wise features many players with experience from past state title berths and a coach with a championship pedigree. What parallels do you draw between your own team and Henry A. Wise?
Mencarini: First of all, I have a tremendous amount of respect for the job [Henry A. Wise head football coach] DaLawn Parrish has done there. This is their third finals appearance in [four] years. He just does such a fantastic job with his program, teaching them more than just to win ball games. I’ve had a chance to get to know DaLawn over the last year or two. You really respect coaches that kind of share the same philosophy. We share the same philosophy of kind of building young men, which is nice.
The other thing is, they’ve been in this situation. They know what it feels like. The stadium isn’t going to be overwhelming for many of their players, just like the stadium isn’t going to be overwhelming for us. I tell our guys it’s a business trip and I’m sure he’s telling his guys the same thing. It’s a football game. So we’re not going up there to get enamored with the fact we’re playing in a NFL stadium. We’re going up to take care of business, and that’s a tough task when you play a great team like Wise.