The quarterback with the strong arm and immense talent was back on the home sideline, but there was not much he could do for Northwest last night. Instead, all Ike Whitaker could do was watch and offer encouragement as Josh Volpe and Dexter Korto did their best to keep the Jaguars on the winning track.
Although there is no replacing Whitaker -- last season's All-Met Offensive Player of the Year who is redshirting as a Virginia Tech freshman -- Volpe and Korto showed last night they might have what it takes for the Jaguars to make another postseason run. Volpe threw for one touchdown and Korto rushed for another as the quarterback tandem helped the host Jaguars to a 25-16 victory over previously undefeated Gaithersburg in a Montgomery 4A West game before 2,000 in Germantown.
"You can't draft your players and there is no free agency," said Northwest Coach Randy Trivers, whose team won the Maryland 3A title last season. "You see what you have and shape your personnel to what you have. They're being productive and the main thing is we're getting in the end zone."
For the Jaguars (3-1), that means using two quarterbacks, one who excels at passing, another who thrives at running. A junior who played mainly on the junior varsity last season, Volpe completed 8 of 13 passes for 71 yards, though he had three balls dropped, including one that Gaithersburg (3-1) intercepted.
Korto, a starting linebacker last season, showed his ability on the second snap he took, running 31 yards out of a shotgun formation. That set up Korto's two-yard touchdown run on a quarterback sneak that gave the Jaguars a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. Korto finished with 42 yards on four carries and did not attempt a pass; on defense, he had two sacks and forced a fumble.
"Josh has been our primary quarterback for the most part and Dexter comes in and provides a nice change of pace," Trivers said. "We like to keep people off-balance."
On Northwest's next drive, Korto converted a fourth and one with a quarterback sneak and Morgan Cammack gained 16 yards on a screen pass from Volpe. On the drive's 14th play -- after lining up for a field goal, calling a timeout and then deciding to go for it on fourth and seven from the 11 -- Volpe passed to tight end Matt Logeman running up the right seam for a touchdown and a 13-3 lead.
Early in the third quarter, after Derrick Fields forced a fumble and recovered it, Markcus Ruffin made a leaping catch for an 18-yard gain on a pass from Volpe. Anthony King scored on a four-yard run and Northwest led 19-3.
That proved to be just enough. Gaithersburg pulled within 19-16 and got the ball back with 2 1/2 minutes left. But four consecutive incomplete passes gave Northwest the ball. King added a touchdown in the final minute and the Jaguars could celebrate a victory, with Whitaker giving his old teammates a few words.
"He told me, 'Good game,' " Korto said.