When the Northwest High School football team's offense is running on all cylinders, opposing teams can often have trouble stopping the Jaguars.
As shown in Friday night's game at Springbrook High, the Jaguars can beat teams by land or by air. In its 35-18 regular season-ending victory over the Blue Devils, Northwest reached the end zone three times by running and twice via the pass. The Jaguars passed for 277 yards with sophomore Mark Pierce at the helm, and rushed for over 100. Despite giving up a few big plays, Northwest's defense also contributed.
“Teams don't know what to expect when we have that run-pass factor [working],” said senior receiver Josh Gills, who caught nine passes for 142 yards.
“We were a little sloppy tonight, we made a lot of mistakes,” said Northwest coach Mike Neubeiser. “We just have to clean those things up for the playoffs. Springbrook is a physical football team and they have some really good football players. They played a good game, they spread the ball around and did a good job on offense.”
The Jaguars (8-2) jumped out to a 28-6 halftime advantage and led 14-0 after the game's first 13 minutes. Senior running back Rasheed Gillis sprinted up the middle of the Blue Devils' defense for a 13-yard score and junior running back E.J. Lee tacked on a 31-yard dash into the end zone to put the visitors up by two scores.
Senior running back Terrence Caudle brought the hosts to within 14-6, capping an 80-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown run with 7 minutes, 36 seconds left in the second quarter. Pierce then connected with his older brother, senior Luke Pierce, on a 34-yard touchdown pass less then three minutes later. Gillis scored his second rushing touchdown on a 5-yard effort with 29 seconds left in the half.
“Offensively, we spread the ball around well,” Neubeiser said. “I thought Gillis did a good job, E.J. Lee had some nice carries. We just did a good job of spreading it out.”
Springbrook (5-5) would make a run at the Jags in the second half with back-to-back scores. Junior Neiman Blain hit senior Isaiah Eisendorf for an 85-yard pass play, which helped set up a 1-yard rush by fullback Michael Robinson. Blain connected with senior receiver Trashawn Harris to bring the Blue Devils to within 28-18 thanks to an onside kick recovered by Tyler Stewart on the prior play.
“We just had a couple of mental lapses, on defense and special teams,” said Gills. “After the [on-side] kick, we refocused and got it together.”
Gills hauled in a 10-yard pass from Mark Pierce to give the Jaguars a 17-point lead. Junior kicker Diego Melendez was successful on all five extra points.
“[Making the playoffs], feels good, we've worked hard since Week 1,” said Lee, who rushed for 50 yards on eight carries and caught five passes for another 23. “I think [our offense] has been effective ever since Day 1. We've been passing and running [well], and its like if we can do both then we can keep the defense on their heels.”
Northwest's depth at the skill positions has proven invaluable throughout the fall. The Jags were missing a couple of receivers on Friday, but were able to receive production from the ever-consistent Gills, along with senior Matt Watson (five catches, 64 yards).
Said Neubeiser, “Last week we had two starting receivers injured so other guys were stepping up and we got one guys back, Brandon Williams, but we still got Jamar Wilson out, but we'll have him for the playoffs, which will help a lot.”
Northwest's win sets up a 4A West Region semifinal game next week against Gaithersburg at a date and site to be determined.
Northwest 35, Springbrook 18
Northwest 7 21 7 0 — 35
Springbrook 0 6 12 0 — 18
NW — Rasheed Gillis 13 run (Diego Melendez kick)
NW — E.J. Lee 31 run (Diego Melendez kick)
SB — Terrence Caudle 4 run (kick failed)
NW — Luke Pierce 34 pass from Mark Pierce (Diego Melendez kick)
NW — Rasheed Gillis 5 run (Diego Melendez kick)
SB — Michael Robinson 1 run (run failed)
SB — Trashawn Harris 45 pass from Neiman Blain (run failed)
NW — Josh Gills 10 pass from Mark Pierce (Diego Melendez kick)
Northwest — E.J. Lee 8-50, Rasheed Gillis 9-49, Josh Gills 5-18.
Springbrook — Neiman Blain 15-58, Trashawn Harris 3-47, Terrence Carter 7-23, Julian Granby 1-22, Tyler Stewart 5-9.
Northwest — Mark Pierce 22-27, 277-1
Springbrook — Neiman Blain 11-19, 196-1; Julian Granby 1-4, 6-0
Northwest — Josh Gills 9-142, Matt Watson 5-64, Luke Pierce 1-34, E.J. Lee 5-23, Aaron-david Beidleman 1-14.
Springbrook — Isaiah Eisendorf 7-124, Trashawn Harris 3-47, Jabree Ray 1-18, Sherwyn Benjamin 1-13.