Northwest 41, Frederick 27

In the second half of 13th-ranked Northwest's 41-27 victory at No. 18 Frederick last night in front of approximately 3,000 in the Maryland 3A West Region championship game, Jaguars fans began to chant, "You can't stop us!" Considering Northwest's performance, it seemed more like statement of fact than braggadocio.

Senior running back Tony Nelson rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries, senior quarterback Ike Whitaker rushed for two touchdowns and completed 17 of 22 passes for 261 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, the Jaguars' defense forced three turnovers and scored a touchdown, and T.J. Lefeged sparked a night of big plays by blocking a field goal attempt on the Cadets' first possession.

"We're just a team full of weapons," said senior Alphonzo Griffin, who returned a fumble 63 yards for a score. "Like Coach [Randy Trivers] always tells us, we've got too many weapons to be stopped."

With the victory, Northwest advanced to the Maryland 3A semifinals, where it will host either Gwynn Park or Bel Air (Balt.), depending on the result of today's 3A East Region final between Gwynn Park and Douglass. The Jaguars (11-1), with a roster full of seniors and three-year starters, improved to 3-4 all-time in the postseason, winning a second-round playoff game for the first time. Northwest, which has complied the most victories in a season in its seven-year history, is just two steps from its goal of a state championship.

"This is the furthest we've ever been," said senior Darren Brownlee (eight receptions, 120 yards). "It's a great feeling, and we want to keep it going." Frederick, which won just two games two years ago, finished 10-2.

The impact of Northwest's big-play ability was never more apparent than in the first half of last night's game. Frederick had the ball for 15 minutes 31 seconds -- nearly twice as long as the Jaguars did -- ran 37 plays to Northwest's 21, out-gained the Jaguars 202-173 and yet trailed 28-6 at the half.

Frederick looked impressive on its first drive but failed to score thanks to Lefeged's block. Northwest then took advantage of a Frederick fumble that Salim Koroma recovered on the Cadets 10-yard line to take a 6-0 lead. And on the last play of the half with Frederick trailing 20-6, the Jaguars took control of the game. With one second remaining, Frederick quarterback Cory Rhodes dropped back to attempt a pass but decided to scramble. He was drilled by Northwest junior Dexter Korto, fumbled, and Griffin scooped up the ball and raced 63 yards for a touchdown.

Frederick didn't fold, as Rhodes threw a pair of touchdown passes to Anthony Walker, the second of which brought the Cadets within 28-20 with 10:04 left in the game. Whitaker, however, hit Andrew Thomas for a 41-yard touchdown, and Nelson picked off a pass and then scored on a six-yard touchdown run to put the game out of reach.