By Kevin O’Rourke
The number one ranked high school football team in the land will face its first real test of the season on Friday as the Northwest Jaguars will host the Paint Branch Panthers in a battle of unbeaten teams.
The Panthers come into Northwest after beating Einstein High School 35-14 last week. They have wins over Churchill, Kennedy, Blake and Springbrook this season.
“Paint Branch is a very good football team,” said Northwest Head Coach Michael Neubeiser. “They are balanced offensively, meaning they run and pass equally well. Defensively they are physical and fast. We will need to limit mistakes such as turnovers and penalties if we plan on winning this game.”
While Northwest has been rolling teams all season, scoring at least forty points per game, and forcing a fourth-quarter running clock in every game, Neubeiser knows that Paint Branch is not to be taken lightly. He said Paint Branch Head Coach Mike Nesmith and his staff have done a tremendous job of rebuilding after many talented seniors were lost to graduation last year.
Paint Branch will be coming into Germantown riding a five-game win streak and a chip on their shoulder after being knocked off by the Jags in the last year’s Maryland State Playoffs.
“In order to slow Paint Branch down we will need to limit their running game on early downs and then pressure the quarterback on passing downs,” said Neubeiser. “If we allow Danon Davis-Cray to stand in the pocket comfortably, we will be in trouble because he is a good quarterback. At the same time we need to be aware of Davis-Cray as a running threat. He is a good athlete. We faced him last year when he started for Blake.”
On the other side of the ball, Paint Branch has shown the ability to give up points but limit the opponent’s opportunities to score put big numbers on the board. “Defensively, Paint Branch is very fast and strong,” said Neubeiser. “They are a very good defense, led by linebackers Jordan Grant Hill, Gibbs Tinne and nose guard Roger White. They are a difficult team to run on so we are really going to need our offensive line to step up on Friday night. They will need to make some holes for EJ Lee and our running backs and they will need to keep Marky Pierce clean in the passing game.”
Given time and space by the Jags offensive line, Pierce and Lee have proven they can be a prolific one-two punch for defenses this season. They have combined for 1,461 offensive yards and 21 touchdowns this year. Pierce has thrown for 828 yards and 12 passing touchdowns and one rushing, and Lee has run for 633 yards and eight touchdowns over five games. Wide receiver Jamar Wilson has racked up 347 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.
Last week, Northwest took the Pierce, Wilson & Lee Show to Blake High School and the triple threat combined for three touchdowns. Pierce threw to Wilson for on, Lee ran for another, and Pierce threw two more touchdowns to receiver Brandon Williams. Northwest’s running back corps combined for four touchdowns, including Lee’s. Other rushing touchdowns were scored by Kevin Proctor, Juwon Farri, and Shyheim Wright.
Northwest has defeated Paint Branch three times, once in 2004, and twice last season in the Jags run to the State Championship Title. The last meeting was a 55-36 victory in the Maryland State playoffs.
Caption: Senior linebacker Brendan Thompson leads the Jags onto the field at Blake High School prior to their 48-0 victory.
Photo by Germantown Pulse