After a long season and an exhausting championship run, senior Rasheed Gillis still isn’t sure about his primary position on Northwest High School’s football team.
Not that he, nor any of his Northwest teammates, care what position they play — as long as they’re on the field.
“I just play wherever they put me,” Gillis said.
The triple-threat — nicknamed “Flash” by a team supporter — made plays on offense, defense and special teams, helping lead Northwest (12-2) to a 33-16 victory against Suitland (13-1) in the Class 4A state championship game Friday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
The victory gave the Jaguars their first state championship since 2004.
“I’m just proud of the kids for stepping up and being physical, and doing everything we asked them to do,” Northwest coach Mike Neubeiser said.
Playing in cold, rainy conditions, Gillis and the Northwest defense kept the Rams in check, shutting down their run game and putting constant pressure on senior quarterback Wesley Wolfolk.
Suitland’s offense was silenced in the first half, but the Rams came charging back in third quarter and trimmed Northwest’s lead to 12-8 after a touchdown on their opening drive.
Gillis, though, responded with a 56-yard kickoff return that gave the Jaguars possession deep in Suitland territory. The senior capped off the short drive with a 2-yard rushing touchdown which gave Northwest a two-possession lead and proved to be the game-winner.
Sophomore quarterback Mark Pierce finished his stellar playoff run by completing 12 of 22 passes for 261 yards and two passing touchdowns. His 77-yard touchdown to senior Matt Watson late in the fourth quarter extended Northwest’s lead to 26-16 and put the game away.
“This group’s a special group,” Neubeiser said. “There’s a really nice mix — we’re kind of a young team actually. We knew coming in that we’d be young. We just needed some of the guys to step up, and they did.”
Pierce recorded 14 passing touchdowns during the Jaguars playoff run.
“We knew we had to do it for these seniors this year,” Pierce said.
Senior Joshua Gills, who spent part of the season under center, caught five passes for 84 yards.
The multi-position star caught a 30-yard touchdown in the second quarter that capped off an 85-yard drive.
“This is a terrific season with a storybook ending,” Gills said. “The seniors couldn’t have asked for a better year.”
Northwest senior cornerback Rodney Snider had a shutdown performance in the secondary, breaking up four passes and intercepting a deep throw late in the second quarter.
The special teams advantage belonged to the Jaguars, whose opening offensive possession started on Suitland’s 28-yard line as a result of a short punt. Northwest capitalized on the field position and took a 6-0 lead after E.J. Lee’s 9-yard rushing touchdown.
The Rams started slow for the third consecutive game, committing seven penalties and managing only 105 yards in the first half. Their offense picked up in the second half, but so did their penalties.
“You can’t have 17 penalties in a state championship game. That shouldn’t be allowed. Those are things we did and we have to own up to it,” Suitland coach Ed Shields said.
The Rams had not lost since November 2012, when they were defeated by Henry A. Wise 41-6 in the 4A South Region final.
Northwest’s victory gives Montgomery County its first football state championship since Sherwood won in 2008.
“It’s just an amazing feeling,” Pierce said. “Words can’t explain how we all feel right now. It’s great to definitely shock the world, and get it done.”
Northwest 33, Suitland 16
Northwest (12-2) 6 6 8 13 — 33
Suitland (13-1) 0 2 6 8 — 16
N — E.J. Lee 9 run (kick blocked)
S — Safety
N — Joshua Gills 30 pass from Mark Pierce (pass failed)
S — Tevon Singleton 40 pass from Wesley Wolfolk (run failed)
N — Rasheed Gillis 2 run (E.J. Lee run)
S — Darryl Jasper 4 pass from Wesley Wolfolk (Wesley Wolfolk run)
N — Matt Watson 77 yard pass from Mark Pierce (pass intercepted)
N — E.J. Lee 10 run (Diego Melendez kick)
Northwest — Mark Pierce 7-27; E.J. Lee 17-24; Rasheed Gillis 3-2; Matt Watson 1-(-1); Trint Coulter 1-(-6).
Suitland — Wesley Wolfolk 18-49; Robert Wigfall 9-31; Brandon Brown 4-27; Joshua Burke 7-21.
Northwest — Mark Pierce 12-22-261-0; Trint Coulter 1-1-7-0.
Suitland — Wesley Wolfolk 18-42-218-1. Dakarai Ellis 0-1-0-0.
Northwest — Matt Watson 3-111; Joshua Gills 5-84; Rasheed Gillis 1-38; E.J. Lee 3-28; Brandon Williams 1-7.
Suitland — Steven Rivers 10-132; Tevin Singleton 1-40; Robert Wigfall 2-29; Darryl Jasper 3-18; Anthony Ruffin 1-0; Dakarai Ellis 1-(-1).