Northwest Coach Mike Neubeiser didn’t say much to his team after Friday night’s win against Quince Orchard. There was no rah-rah speech, no hooting or hollering, no celebration. Neubeiser simply looked his team up and down and said with a smile: “We’re going to be practicing on Thanksgiving.”
The boys erupted into a cheer. And why shouldn’t they have? They had just beaten the eighth-ranked Cougars, 28-20, in the Maryland 4A West region final in Gaithersburg.
E.J. Lee rushed for 103 yards and Matt Watson added three touchdowns for the Jaguars, who will travel to meet Paint Branch (11-1) in next week’s state semifinal after the Panthers survived a 51-48 shootout against Perry Hall in the 4A North final.
“We came out and did what we needed to do,” said Northwest wide receiver Josh Gills, “and we got the win.”
It was the second time in a month that the Jaguars (10-2) beat the Cougars (10-2) on their home field, but Friday’s clash was more about avenging last year’s 41-7 loss in the 4A West region final.
Northwest jumped out to a 20-0 lead early in the second quarter after two big plays from Watson. He caught an eight-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Mark Pierce (126 yards, two touchdowns) in the first quarter for the game’s first score, then scored on a 29-yard touchdown run with 10 minutes left in the second quarter.
“That lead was crucial to getting the win. We felt like if we got out on them early, they’d get down on themselves,” said Gills, who caught a 14-yard touchdown on the first play of the second quarter.
Quince Orchard, which had reached the last two Maryland 4A state finals, responded.
Kevin Joppy (119 yards) ran for a 54-yard touchdown on the drive after Watson’s second score, and the Cougars pulled within 20-14 on an 11-yard touchdown run by Shawn Barlow with about three minutes remaining in the first half.
After both teams made defensive adjustments in a taut third quarter, Watson sealed the win with a 20-yard touchdown run with less than two minutes to play in the fourth quarter after an interception by Gills.
“It’s their house. We just beat them here twice. They didn’t want to lose to us, especially in the playoff game to us, especially because last year the score was so devastating,” Watson said. “We just had motivation from last year.”