Northwest streaky but dominant in season opener by Jennifer Beekman Staff writer
They call Northwest High School junior Joshua Gills the “game changer” for a reason.
“He’s electrifying. He can break open games. When you need a big play, you get the ball to [Gills],” Jaguars senior quarterback Matty Callahan said.
Callahan did just that. Gills’ two first-half touchdowns helped set the tone for Northwest football’s 32-7 season-opening win over James H. Blake Friday in Germantown.
The Jaguars lost last year’s season opener to the Bengals, 20-14.
Gills scored Northwest’s first touchdown of the season on a 12-yard reception in the fourth minute of the first quarter.
He then broke free for a 53-yard touchdown scamper to open the second quarter.
The Jaguars were slow starters last fall. They rocketed to a 29-0, halftime lead Friday.
But Northwest struggled to maintain that intensity in the second half, something Callahan and Gills said the team will have to fix quickly.
Senior Josh McDonald gave Northwest a 13-0 lead when he returned an interception 33 yards into the end zone three minutes after Gills’ first score.
Gills’ touchdown nine seconds into the second quarter increased the Jaguars’ lead to 20-0.
After earning two points on a safety midway through the second quarter, senior fullback Mike Shannon closed out the first half scoring with a 4-yard touchdown run.
“I didn’t have a great game, I take a lot of the credit,” Callahan said. “It’s so important to have guys around me who can make plays. Every night certain guys my night come out like themselves but we have the guys who can make the plays and that really takes pressure off my shoulders.”
Senior kicker Tommy Beard’s 25-yard field goal in the final seconds of the third quarter were the only points Northwest mustered in the second half Friday.
After a mistake-ridden first half Blake put together some good possessions in the second half.
The Bengals prevented the shutout with Stefan Sigwalt’s touchdown pass to Marquis Robinson on fourth and 16 from the 16-yard line.
“Early on we didn’t tackle well,” Blake coach Tony Nazzaro said. “That was the biggest thing coming in. Offensively we had chances to make plays in the passing lane but we dropped some passes or we didn’t sustain blocks long enough. But these are all correctable mistakes.”
Callahan said Northwest still has a lot to improve on if its going to have the type of season many are expecting of it. But Friday’s game was a good way to work out all the early season nerves.
“We don’t feel pressure or pay attention to all the hype [around how good we can be]. We just worry about doing what we’re supposed to do,” Gills said.
Northwest 32, Blake 7
Blake (0-1) 0 0 7 0 — 7
Northwest (1-0) 13 16 3 0 — 32
N — Joshua Gills 12 pass from Matty Callahan (kick failed)
N — Josh McDonald 33 interception return (Tommy Beard kick)
N — Joshua Gills 53 run (Tommy Beard kick)
N — Blake safety
N — Mike Shannon 4 run (Tommy Beard kick)
B — Marquis Robinson pass from Stefan Sigwalt (kick)
Northwest — Joshua Gills 9-88; Trayvon Wright 4-25; Matt Watson 2 -22; EJ Lee 4-14.
Blake — Stefan Sigwalt 18-36-121-1 (completion-attempts-yards-interceptions).
Northwest — Matty Callahan 9-23-148-1.
Blake — Marquis Robinson 3-23.
Northwest — Ryan Markush 3-72; Byron Johnson 2-33.