Even with all of the pressure it attracts, Northwest quarterback Matty Callahan calls the design of his offense a “masterpiece.” He is widely considered to be the top quarterback in Montgomery County — and his two consecutive 300-yard passing games can be attributed to his ability to blend smart decisions within his gunslinger mentality — and that’s only the half of it.
Callahan isn’t the type to describe football as art, but he obliges when it comes to the spread offense he’s led for three years. He’s been using more audibles at the line the past several weeks. Sometimes it’s as simple as a head nod to his receiver or a head shake to his running back, and it’s exactly that type of freedom that Northwest wants him to feel Friday night against Einstein in a nonleague game.
“We’re constantly checking in and out of plays. We’ll line up one way, then we’ll just check right out of it and run a different play in a matter of seconds,” Callahan said. “[Receivers] can recognize coverages just as well as I can, so we’re always together.”
On Wednesday, Northwest’s coaches talked to Callahan about Einstein’s ability on offense – especially running back Khalil Wilson, who has run for 1,129 yards and nine touchdowns in seven games – and the message was point blank: Northwest will likely be involved in a shootout.
That should be no problem for Callahan and the Jaguars’ offense, which is among the most efficient units in the county. Northwest has scored at least 27 points or more in three straight wins, and Callahan has thrown for 876 yards and eight touchdowns in that stretch. What is even more impressive has been Northwest’s ability to rally in the second half during the winning streak. The Jaguars either came from behind or broke second half ties in each of the wins, outscoring their opponents 65-8 in the final two quarters combined.
Matching Einstein’s offense isn’t the only pressure Callahan will feel Friday – he also expects heavy blitzing from his opponent. That defensive strategy comes with the territory in the Jaguars’ wide-open offense, he said.
“They’ve got some big boys over there. They throw me off,” Callahan said of Einstein. “Believe it or not, it’s a big advantage for me when teams bring a lot of pressure. I love playing the pressure game.”
Blake Dove attracted attention for his defense last fall, leading Seneca Valley in tackles as a freshman. Now at Churchill , Dove has continued his development as a defender this season, but the sophomore is gaining confidence on the other side of the ball, too.
Dove rushed 10 times for 37 yards and his first career offensive touchdown in last week’s 33-20 victory over Walter Johnson. He should be in line for more backfield duty when the Bulldogs host Springbrook in a nonleague game on Friday.
“He might be the most underrated running back in the county,” Coach Joe Allen said, “and it’s just because he hasn’t had a lot of reps.”
Allen had been hesitant to use Dove too much on offense early in the season as the 5-foot-11, 188-pounder played through a minor knee injury. Instead, junior Malik Harris has handled much of the load with 509 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 87 carries. Now that Dove is fully healthy, the coach has been trying to find new ways to get both involved in the team’s triple option offense.
Churchill’s base set includes a fullback, tailback and two wing backs around quarterback Jonathan Lee, but Dove saw his most offensive action of the season against the Wildcats, running out of a power formation that Allen believes better plays to the team’s strengths.
Dove and Harris both line up deep in a fullhouse set that also features a fullback and just one wing back set wide. The Bulldogs can pound the line of scrimmage with either Dove or Harris or run the option to the outside.
“It’s a very versatile formation,” Allen said. “It allows us to either go into physical or finesse mode without changing the formation.”
Sherwood junior Elijah Spottswood did not have a good first half last week against Springbrook. He dropped an interception in the first quarter from his cornerback post, and then he fumbled a punt return. In the second quarter, he was burned for a 50-yard passing gain, which set up a Springbrook field goal.
But on the ensuing play, at the end of the second quarter, Spottswood found redemption. He returned the kickoff 83 yards for a touchdown to give Sherwood a 28-3 lead going into halftime, and then he took the opening kickoff of the second half 90 yards for a touchdown in the 47-3 win.
“It kind of brought life back to me. It’s crazy. You feel a lot better, from how I was playing,” said Spottswood, who also gets carries at tailback for Sherwood (5-2). “Special teams is a third of the game, so it has to be perfected.”
The two scores gave Spottswood three kickoff returns for touchdowns this season. He calls the special teams unit a “secret weapon” for the Warriors, although the secret might be now out following last week’s performance. Sherwood already boasts a strong kicking game behind senior Jake Ryder, who Sherwood coach Mike Bonavia says is the best kicker he’s ever coached. Ryder has scored 32 points for the Warriors this season and perhaps more importantly, has had just one kickoff returned in seven games.
And now Spottswood has emerged as a threat for Sherwood’s special teams. Despite making a handful of early mistakes last Friday, Bonavia counts Spottswood as his most dependable, if not dangerous player on all three units.
“He’s one of the guys that has really improved and stepped up,” said Bonavia, whose team meets Paint Branch (2-5) Friday. “Elijah has been such a multi-faceted playmaker for us... He’s just so dangerous.”