Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2007

Rams football in line for playoffs

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The Rockville High football team snapped its three-game losing streak with a 39-0 domination of Poolesville at home Friday. It was Rockville’s second consecutive win over its Montgomery 2A⁄1A Division rival and kept it in Class 2A West Region playoff contention.

Rockville (4-4 record) got off to a promising 3-1 start in 2007 with wins over Northwood, Richard Montgomery and Wheaton before faltering in the middle of its schedule. Friday’s performance, in which the Rams performed well on both sides of the ball, provided them with a spark.

‘‘I don’t think the kids saw the reality going in against Poolesville, they were disappointed about the previous losses,” second-year Rockville coach Mark Maradei said. ‘‘But I went back and looked at the points and went through all these different scenarios and we have a great chance of making playoffs. We’re every bit alive.”

The top four teams in each region, based on the state’s playoff point system, qualify for postseason play. Rockville, which went 7-3 in 2006 for its first winning season since 1997, barely missed playoffs last year. After it defeated Bethesda-Chevy Chase, 39-27, in its regular-season finale, the Rams thought their playoff destiny had been solidified — it was even announced at the Rams stadium after the game. But Winters Mill’s upset over Francis Scott Key the same night knocked the Rams into the fifth position and on the outside looking in.

Rockville’s record isn’t as strong this year. But it’s currently in fifth position in the 2A West. And if everything goes how it should, without any upsets, Rockville is in good position to make its first postseason appearance in 10 years. To the point, Rockville needs to beat Blake (2-7) and have Northwood (5-4) lose to Kennedy (7-2), which also needs to win to make the 3A West playoffs, to gain a playoff berth.

‘‘We just want to go out and take care of what we can take care of,” Maradei said. ‘‘After going 7-3 and not making the playoffs, maybe this year we can hopefully finish 5-4 and they’ll throw us a bone here.”

The Rams certainly took care of business Friday. Maradei has tweaked his lineup a bit and Rockville’s finally found that positive mindset and confidence it had early in the season.

Junior Peter Nalle has taken over for junior Malcolm Robinson at quarterback, allowing Robinson to rely on his pure speed and agility at running back.

Robinson rushed for 66 yards and two touchdowns on three carries against Poolesville. After the Rams’ 33-point second quarter, Robinson scored the only second-half touchdown on a 65-yard punt return in the third quarter.

Senior running back Tarik Paul also scored three touchdowns. He carried 9 times for 92 yards on the ground for two touchdowns and scored on a 55-yard punt return. Nalle completed 5 of 11 passes for 44 yards.

Inconsistency has hindered the Rams during their losing stretch. But they found their form Friday. If they can do that against Class 4A Blake next week, they could salvage their season with a playoff berth.

‘‘Let’s be honest, I never know who’s going to show up for Rockville,” Maradei said. ‘‘Every team has a letdown. Unfortunately ours lasted three games. These guys have had their sights set so high from the beginning. Our motto all year has been ‘Believe we can get there.’ And they’ve done a remarkable job. This program is still in the process of being built and I’m happy the way this season has unfolded.”