BALTIMORE, Dec. 3 -- Northwest senior quarterback Ike Whitaker made big pass plays and the Jaguars emptied their bag of tricks with a slew of reverses, double passes and fake handoffs. But to defeat Lackey and capture the Maryland 3A football championship Friday night, Northwest needed a standout performance from an unlikely set of heroes -- its defense.
The ninth-ranked Jaguars recovered two fumbles, including one in the end zone for a touchdown, withstood a gritty performance from All-Met running back Morgan Green and made a late interception to seal a 14-9 victory over No. 5 Lackey in front of 6,000 at M&T Bank Stadium.
Northwest's Tony Nelson dives for a first down ahead of Devonte Williams, left, and Kyle McKeown during the No. 9 Jaguars' 3A championship game.
(Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)
"The defense has been kind of unsung this year," said Northwest Coach Randy Trivers, whose team entered Friday's game averaging 36.7 points and had not scored fewer than 20 in any game. "With all the dynamic weapons we have on offense, most people focused, as far as the media goes, on those headline players, and rightfully so. But we said at the beginning of the year . . . that you've got to win by playing great defense."
The championship is the first in the Jaguars' short history and caps their rapid rise to prominence among the state's elite programs. Northwest opened in 1998, and without a senior class the Jaguars went 2-8 that year. Since then, Northwest is 54-13.
"It's very hard for me to explain to anybody that hasn't walked in my shoes what it's taken in seven years for us to be where we are," said Trivers, whose team finished 13-1 this fall. "I told the kids there's no secret to success, there's no formula for success -- it's about commitment and hard work."
Lackey (13-1) lost in the state championship game for the second consecutive season.
Down 3-0 early in the second quarter, Northwest drove 64 yards to the Lackey 1-yard line. But on first and goal, Whitaker fumbled on a quarterback keeper and Lackey junior Bryan Gibbons recovered.
Four plays later, however, Northwest senior Terrence Peete knocked the ball free from a Lackey running back, and the Jaguars' Cortenous Herbert fell on it in the end zone.
"Terrence made the hit, and we're always coached up to hustle to the ball," said Herbert, who also had a sack in the game. "I saw the ball pop loose and I got on it as quickly as possible."
Late in the third quarter, Northwest added to its lead when Whitaker (20 for 27, 207 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception) hit senior Alphonzo Griffin on a fly pattern for a score. The play covered 44 yards, but Whitaker's rainbow sailed 55 yards through the air.
"Their offense is a time bomb," Lackey Coach Scott Chadwick said. "They can score at any time from anywhere on the field."
Lackey went 73 yards on nine plays on its ensuing possession and made the score 14-9 when Green sailed over the pile from a yard out. Green, who fought an injured hamstring all season, had 30 carries for 127 yards in his first full game since Oct. 15.
After Green's score, Lackey attempted a two-point conversion, but Northwest senior Darren Brownlee (six catches, 74 yards) made a jarring hit to stop the Chargers' ball carrier at the goal line. Lackey had three more possessions, but Herbert batted down a pass on fourth down to stop the first, sophomore Anthony Chase picked off a pass to end the second and time ran out on the Chargers on the third.