By Kevin O’Rourke
For the second year in a row, the Northwest Jaguars travelled three-and-half miles down Great Seneca Highway to face their arch-rivals, the Quince Orchard Cougars in the Cougar Dome to win the 4A West Regional title in a hard-hitting and down the wire game. It took all 60 minutes but the Jaguars beat the Cougars 28-21, thanks in large part to a defensive stop to end the game.
The Cougar offense was able to come back late in the game and put together a drive which started at the Northwest 48-yard with 2:27 left in the game. Quince Orchard, down by seven, was able to convert two third-and-long situations and a fourth-down and drive the ball to the Northwest seven-yard line. The Cougars were set up first and goal with 15-second remaining.
The Northwest defense, lead by seniors Troy Lefeged, Chuck Anya, and Mervin Janet, were able to stifle the Quince Orchard drive. Lefeged had two big tackles and Anya and Janet pressured QO quarterback Carson Knight and he misfired on sure touchdown pass to running back Kyle Green with six-seconds left. QO’s hopes of a comeback would end when Knight would lose his footing on a rollout and go down to run out the clock.
“My blood pressure is real high right now,” said Northwest Head Coach Mike Neubeiser about the last drive. “That was a tough one. I am real proud of our kids to get that goal line stand at the end. It is impressive.”
The Northwest defense was able to do a better job of controlling the Cougar running game on Friday night, than in the last meeting, which was a 52-27 blowout win by Quince Orchard on Nov. 1. In this game Neubeiser said they were not going to let the QO running game, lead by Kyle Green, beat them. “We put a lot more guys in the box. We put everybody up there and we sold out for the run, and did enough in coverage to get it done.”
While the Jaguar defense may have had the last hurrah, it was the Jag offense that got things started. The Northwest offense’s ability to break off a big play at any time was again on this display in the 28-21 victory, as Jag’s running back E.J. Lee got the scoring started on the first play from scrimmage with a 72-yard touchdown run through the gut of Quince Orchard’s defense.
It was that early score which allowed Northwest to control the game, according to Lee, “We weren’t down in the first quarter and we were able to run the ball, because they had to respect both the pass and the run.”
And run he did. Lee would break out for a number of runs for 15 or more yards, including a 45 yard-run, and 1-yard touchdown run. Lee was also a threat on special teams with a 75-yard kick-off return. Lee’s return would lead to another Jag touchdown when Khalil Owens would sprint four-yards off the left side to the end zone to reclaim the lead for the Jags. On the previous series, a bad punt snap by Northwest was recovered in the end zone by QO to put the Cougars on the scoreboard. Jags lead 14-7.
All the running by Lee would open up the Jags potent passing attack, which had been waiting to make its presence felt. The bitter cold seemed to be a factor as Mark Pierce and his receivers couldn’t quite make the downfield connection except for an 11-yard pass to Brandon Williams in the first quarter.
Pierce and Williams would hook up on an 80-yard touchdown throw to put the Jags up 21-7 going into halftime. And Pierce’s arm and Lee’s legs combined with the lead would keep the Quince Orchard defense guessing the entire rest of the game.
The Jags will host the first round of the Maryland State Semi-Finals next week, but must await the outcome of the DuVal vs. Eleanor Roosevelt game at 1:00 pm on Saturday. If DuVal (9-3) wins they will play Northwest. If DuVal loses then, Howard (11-1) will play at Northwest next week.
“We will figure out who were playing and get back to work and we are excited to be practicing on Thanksgiving,” said Neubeiser.
Top: Northwest defenders Chuck Anya (33) and Mervin Janet (51) pressure Quince Orchard quarterback Carson Knight (12) during the final seconds, forcing Knight to miss his receiver in the end zone, to preserve the 28-21 Northwest victory.
Next: Northwest wide receiver, senior Brandon Williams (9) catches and Mark Pierce pass and goes 80-yards to give the Jaguars a 14-7 lead.
Next: Northwest senior E.J. Lee takes a handoff on the first play from scrimmage and goes 72-yards for the first score of the game.
Next: Sophomore Khalil Owens (4) sacks Quince Orchard quarterback Carson Knight (12) in the fourth quarter of Northwest’s 28-21 victory.
Next: E.J. Lee runs for a long gain.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.