Northwest High School’s Matt Watson has played four years on the football team, but after being nudged by coaches and teammates last spring he decided to try out a new sport: track.
“I just had some extra encouragement from coaches and some of my friends,” Watson said. “It’s definitely paid off.”
Watson, a 6-foot-2 wide receiver, sped by the Gaithersburg secondary for two long touchdowns and finished the game with 197 receiving yards, helping the Jaguars defeat the Trojans 36-7 in the 4A West Region semifinals in Germantown.
“Matt Watson stepped up for us. He’s a really fast kid,” Northwest coach Mike Neubeiser. “He’s going to be one of the top (400 meters) runners in the state this year. He got open and ran some nice routes for us.”
Northwest sophomore quarterback Mark Pierce threw for 311 yards and four touchdowns, completing 10 of 15 pass attempts. He connected with Watson three times in the second quarter for 179 yards and two touchdowns.
“He’s had his confidence level up really high,” Pierce said. “We just have to get the ball in his hands and he can make a big play,” Pierce said.
Northwest is on a three-game winning streak and has won six of seven heading into the region championship game against Quince Orchard in Gaithersburg.
“From spring, to summer, to football season now, my speed has definitely picked up,” said Watson, who caught a pair of touchdowns in Northwest’s 35-21 victory against Quince Orchard 35-21 on Nov. 1.
Northwest’s defense came up with several turnovers, including senior Rodney Snider’s 78-yard fumble return that gave the Jaguars a comfortable 28-7 lead. The takeaway halted Gaithersburg’s 24-play drive which ate up much of the third-quarter clock.
Snider intercepted Gaithersburg senior quarterback Nick DeCarlo in the second quarter which helped Northwest take a 20-7 lead into halftime.
Northwest junior E.J. Lee rushed for 33 yards and caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Pierce in the first quarter to give the Jaguars a 7-0 lead.
DeCarlo threw for 268 yards and added a 14-yard rushing touchdown to tie the game in the second quarter, before the Jaguars regained the lead with a 58-yard touchdown pass from Pierce to Watson.
Gaithersburg senior running back Solomon Vault returned from injury, running for 35 yards on 12 rushes.
Top-seeded Quince Orchard defeated Clarksburg 42-21 to advance to the championship game.
“We just got to come out tomorrow and all next week, and if we practice really hard, we’re going to beat Quince Orchard,” Snider said.
Northwest 36, Gaithersburg 7
Gaithersburg (10-3) 0 7 0 0—7
Northwest (11-2) 7 13 8 8—36
N — E.J. Lee 6 pass from Mark Pierce (Diego Melendez kick)
G — Nick DeCarlo 14 run (Joris Bieleu kick)
N — Matt Watson 58 pass from Mark Pierce (kick failed)
N — Matt Watson 85 pass from Mark Pierce (Diego Melendez kick)
N — Rodney Snider 78 fumble return (Rasheed Gillis run)
N — Josh Gills 6 pass from Mark Pierce (Trint Coulter pass to Troy Lefeged)
Gaithersburg — Solomon Vault 12-35, Xaviyer Mosley 8-23, Nick DeCarlo 9-(-10).
Northwest — E.J. Lee 7-33, Rasheed Gillis 2-22, Josh Gills 1-1, Kevin Blankenship 1-(-1), Khalil Owens 4-(-3), Mark Pierce 2-(-5).
Northwest — Mark Pierce 10-15-311-1.
Gaithersburg — Nick DeCarlo 16-35-268-2.
Gaithersburg — William Tearney 6-156, Isaiah Rainey 6-62, Dalton Kephart 3-25, Ariel Martinez 2-25.
Northwest — Matt Watson 4-197, Luke Pierce 2-57, E.J. Lee 2-17, Trint Coulter 1-34, Josh Gills 1-6.