Defense might win championships, but it can win regular season games, too.
In a contest that saw neither team score in the second half, the Northwest Jaguars football team rode out a second quarter lead to defeat the Richard Montgomery Rockets 18-13 in Rockville Friday evening.
The Jaguars (6-1) struggled to stop the Rockets’ (4-3) ground attack early on, but their defense made some tweaks over the course of the evening that eventually neutralized the Rockets’ running game.
“[Richard Montgomery] made some adjustments defensively, and we made some adjustments defensively,” Northwest head coach Mike Neubeiser said. “No one scored [in the second half], right?”
The Rockets went three-and-out on the opening drive of the game, giving the explosive Jaguars offense a chance to take an early lead. They cashed in just four plays into the drive, as junior running back Isaiah Bishop ran 51 yards for the first touchdown of the game to give the Jaguars a 6-0 lead with eight minutes left in the quarter.
Richard Montgomery established some momentum in their ground game on their next possession, spearheaded by a series of strong runs by junior running back T’Kai Ayoola. It wouldn’t be enough momentum to put points on the board, as the drive eventually fizzled out after a turnover on downs at the Northwest 33-yard line.
Junior running back Ajahni Terry kept the Jags’ next drive alive with a spectacular 10-yard run on third-and-long. A few plays later, senior quarterback Jack Anders found junior wide receiver Marcus Berry for a 61-yard touchdown to increase the lead to 12-0 with 39 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Richard Montgomery offense came out much stronger in the second quarter, mixing it up with well-placed passes from senior quarterback Michael Braswell along with runs up the middle from Ayoola.
Facing a fourth-and-14 at the Northwest 35-yard line, Braswell made a crucial completion to senior wide receiver Todd Thoman along the sideline to the Northwest 13-yard line for the first down. A 12-yard Ayoola run to the 1-yard line and a Braswell quarterback sneak across the goal line finally got Richard Montgomery on the board with just under six minutes left in the half.
The Jaguars stumbled on their next drive with a quick three-and-out after three straight incompletions and were forced to punt for the first time in the game.
The Rockets took full advantage on their next possession, needing just three plays to find the end zone courtesy of a 32-yard touchdown run by Ayoola. The subsequent extra point would be the only points after a touchdown scored by either team all evening and gave the Rockets their first lead of the game at 13-12 with four minutes to play in the half.
Northwest converted a third-and-14 at their own 41-yard line with some help from a Richard Montgomery penalty for pass interference. Three straight Anders completions to Berry, senior wide receiver Christian Pawlowski and Isiah Williams capped off the drive, with the latter going 11 yards to put Northwest back in the lead with a minute to go before halftime.
“I think we moved the ball pretty well,” Neubeiser said. “Our big playmakers made some big plays. Thankfully, we have guys that run fast and make big plays.”
The second half was anchored by both teams’ defenses, as they both combined to punt five times in the third and fourth quarters. The Jaguars were unable to convert a third-and-12 on their opening possession of the half, leading to a punt by senior Max Pagella that the Jaguars downed at the Rockets’ three-yard line.
Two big Northwest sacks by junior defensive lineman Kortez Offutt and senior defensive end DeAndre Jules forced Richard Montgomery’s offense off the field, and a short punt to the Richard Montgomery 39-yard line gave Northwest’s offense great field position to add to their lead.
With a minute to go in the third quarter, the Jags turned over on downs as Berry fell a yard short of converting a fourth-and-one at the Rockets’ 30-yard line. Two of the next three possessions between both teams were three-and-outs, with all three ending in punts.
Northwest eventually got a drive going that began with five and a half minutes left in the game, starting at its own 20-yard line before encountering a fourth-and-1 at the Richard Montgomery 22-yard line.
Terry converted the fourth down with a five-yard run, and with the Rockets having used all three of their timeouts earlier in the drive, all Anders needed to do was kneel twice to close out the Jags’ win.
“We reminded guys what their responsibilities were,” Neubeiser said. “We had guys not doing what they were supposed to be doing on the field, not reading their keys and not going where they’re supposed to go, so we just fixed a few things at halftime, reminded what we need to do, and they came out in the second half and executed a little better.”
Northwest returns home this week and will celebrate Homecoming and play host to Whitman (3-4), who just came off a 26-7 victory over Walter Johnson this past Friday. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 pm on Friday in Germantown.
Top: Northwest’s defense came up big in the second half. Senior linebackers DeAndre Jules (6) and Thomas Britton (51) combine to tackle Richard Montgomery’s junior running back T’Kai Ayoola (9) during Friday’s 18-13 victory in Rockville.
Next: The Jags’ Marcus Berry (10) scored a 61-yard touchdown to give Northwest a 12-0 lead in the second quarter.
Next: Northwest quarterback Jack Anders (8) threw two touchdown passes to during the Jags victory on Friday night.
Photos by Billy Owens for the Germantown Pulse