Behind its vocal coach, Quince Orchard returns to the field and avenges loss to Northwest

Kelley has been one of the region’s most vocal coaches advocating gaming during the coronavirus pandemic since last summer. He pointed to the psychological benefits of sport for teenage athletes and the lack of affordable football opportunities outside of high school.

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After Montgomery County postponed the season several times, Kelley got his wish late last month when the school district was planning a three-game soccer campaign. The highlight of this brief season was Friday when Kelley and his players finally got the excitement, nerve and joy of a crucial game.

“These guys have been playing football all their lives since they were 9 or 10 years old,” said Kelley. “It is important for a senior to complete his high school career.”

Kelley started posting on social media in July when Montgomery County canceled its fall and winter sports seasons. The eighth year coach said he was never afraid to speak up when he felt strongly about a problem and, as one of the county’s most successful coaches, others listened.

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“So @mcps will just cancel fall and winter sports?” Kelley tweeted on July 21st. Why not reevaluate in a month and two months? See if we can get something for the kids. Disappointment is not the right word. “

When Montgomery County announced its decision in July, Kelley pondered how he might have handled such news when he was a senior at Seneca Valley High in 1998. He would have missed a state championship, but more importantly, he said he would have lost the routine that defined him. After playing every Friday, his team met again for breakfast and practice on Saturday morning before spending the rest of the day watching college football.

“I can’t really imagine that,” said Kelley, the 2018 All-Met Coach of the Year, who has never lost more than two games in a season. “It’s like we’re living in a bad movie. Especially when you’re so young, 15, 16 years old, to come to terms with this. This is difficult.”

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Montgomery County later said it was reevaluating the running of a football season, and Kelley continued to advocate it. However, his motivation waned over the winter when coronavirus cases in Maryland and no other county in the state ended a sports season.

Hope returned in February when Montgomery County started allowing exercise, but that joy faded a few weeks later when the county council declared football competitions too dangerous. Kelley created a Twitter thread on the day of the announcement and finished it off by writing, “Over 1,000 student-athletes have signed up for soccer with MCPS. You’re taking this away for the wrong reasons. “A few days later he took part in a protest in Rockville.

The following week, one of Kelley’s players, Dante Thompson, spoke at the public hearing of the district council meeting. Thompson’s words must have hit a nerve as the council reversed its decision and allowed football games. The Cougars opened their season with a scrum on March 26, but they focused on the first official game on Friday.

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For the first time since November 2019, Kelley was concerned when he woke up on Friday morning. He did everything he could to keep himself from playing football – running, grading papers in his role as a career support teacher at Quince Orchard, and cleaning his house. When evening came, Kelley put on the same red visor he had thrown on fields so often for both celebration and frustration, and tucked a folded white sheet of paper into the right back pocket of his black sweatpants.

Kelley wanted his non-engaged players to get a college recruiter feature film, but the season was also important for athletes who had already decided their futures. “He was the only person who really went down for us to have a season,” said Demeioun Robinson, a Maryland signatory.

Many of the area’s top recruits enrolled in their colleges early and their senior season is uncertain. In the game on Friday alone, Ryan Barnes (Notre Dame) and Marcus Bradley (Vanderbilt) from Quince Orchard and Kaden Prather (West Virginia) from Northwest were absent.

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Robinson, a five-star recruit, had decided to take this season off and keep his energies for June’s training at College Park. That was before he saw Northwest on his team’s schedule.

In November 2019, Northwest defeated Quince Orchard in the Maryland 4A semifinals. Jaguar’s players and students then stormed Quince Orchard’s field. Robinson and his senior teammates said they would have left Quince Orchard with regret if they had not avenged that loss.

When Northwest drove into the Quince Orchard area in the last minute of the game on Friday, Robinson made sure he completed the content. On the fourth descent, he dismissed the Northwest quarterback and caused Kelley to jump to the visitor’s sideline.

When the game ended, Kelley approached his players on one corner of the field with a grin and beckoned them closer. They got up and jumped around him. It was the happiest thing Kelley had seen in almost two years.

“I was just saying how I felt,” Kelley said of his protests. “If that contributed to this tonight, that’s great.”