POTOMAC – The first round of the Maryland high school football playoffs began Thursday night as No. 2-seeded Churchill hosted No. 7-seeded Richard Montgomery.
Unlike their previous matchup – a high-scoring and competitive affair – the Bulldogs had no problems knocking off their low-seeded opponents, crushing the visiting Rockets 41-12 to advance to the next round.
“The biggest difference was we turned it into a flag football, two-hand-touch game two weeks ago,” said Churchill head coach Joe Rydzewski. “There was no way we were going to let that happen again. We decided that we were going to bring pressure and make them run around back there.”
Bulldogs running back David Avit had another spectacular performance as he finished with four touchdowns, including three in the first quarter.
“David does what David does,” said Rydzewski. “He’s a really talented back, and he’s kind of hitting his best stride right now, and that’s exactly what we want.”
Two weeks ago, Churchill battled in for a 64-50 win in a back-and-forth affair. Yet, in the playoff rematch, both teams had to contend with the shifting weather conditions. For Avit, however, the weather played no factor in his performance.
“I feel like the cold weather affected the other team more than me,” he said. “I just came out here knowing that we have to win. The weather can be whatever it is. I’m just going to come here, come win, and run hard.”
The Bulldogs scored 27 points in the opening quarter as Avit raced down the field for a 55-yard score two plays into the contest.
Churchill quickly got the ball back after making Richard Montgomery’s offense go 3-and-out, as Avit got into the end zone again from three yards out.
On the Rockets’ ensuing drive, quarterback Anthony Dixon Jr. was sacked and fumbled the ball while the Bulldogs were recovering. Linebacker Kris Paul forced the fumble.
“We let their offense put 50 on us last game,” said Paul. “We knew that wasn’t the defense that we were. We had to come out of this game, show them what was up, and then shut them down.”
It led to a quarterback sneak touchdown by Vasi Hallas, while another Avit red zone score made it 27-0 at the end of the quarter.
The second quarter included a score from each team, where Dixon connected with Khalil Wilson for an RM touchdown, while Lance Hersh scored a four-yard rushing touchdown for Churchill.
“Our focus out here was maintaining that quarterback,” said Paul, “getting in his face knowing that he’s not good under pressure, threw right to us, had a couple of nice plays on defense where we were able to shut him down.”
With the win, Churchill advances to the second round to face No. 3 seed Gaithersburg, where it will be a battle between two powerhouse running backs, Avit and Gideon Ituka.
“They have a really good run game,” said Avit. “We’re definitely looking at stopping that. We’re 2-0 against them currently, so we’ve got to be able to go for 3-0. We really want this regional game.”
Meanwhile, Dixon’s Richard Montgomery football career is over, as head coach Nicholas Coates is very proud of him.
“He’s just a tremendous athlete,” said Coates. “Great competitor. He gave us a bunch of chances every week, we lived and died off his left arm, and we had some great games and good memories for a lot of his teammates.”