According to his father, when Northwest sophomore Mark Pierce was six years old, his coaches put him at quarterback because he was smart and understood the game.
“He was never fast,” Scott Pierce, now a defensive line coach and de facto quarterback supervisor for the Jaguars, said with a laugh. “But he can manage a game.”
Pierce engineered a Northwest offense that needed fewer than 30 plays to put up 36 points in what amounted to a three-quarter game when a three-score Jaguars advantage rendered most of the fourth-quarter meaningless. He threw five passes of 30 yards or more, including one 30-yarder to his brother Luke, who made an improbable one-handed grab while holding off his defender with the other arm to set the Jaguars (9-2) up at the Gaithersburg goal line.
Pierce hit senior receiver Matt Watson in stride on mid-range routes that turned into 58 and 85-yard touchdowns within five minutes of each other in a second-quarter outburst.
“Matthew Watson made those two long plays, and we knew we had the momentum on our side,” Pierce said. “It’s just short patterns. I get the ball to him — he’s gone. He’s a fast track runner, so get the ball in his hands and things happen.”
By game’s end, Pierce had completed 9 of 14 passes for 300 yards and an interception.
Mark “gets a lot of coaching from his dad,” Watson said. “So he’ll work with Mark and he refines his skills. Mark’s already a pretty good quarterback. He’s been doing it since little league and he’s just getting the job done real well right now.”
For all those deep balls and touchdown tosses, the youngest Pierce was most excited by a defensive play, a demoralizing blow from senior cornerback Rodney Snider, who picked up a fumble in the red zone in the midst of a nine-minute Trojans drive and returned it 82 yards for a touchdown. Snider had one of two Jaguars interceptions in the game.
But with a 300-yard, four touchdown night, it was the 15-year-old Pierce who stood out most on a Northwest field painted tan with black lines and yard numbers to match the Jaguars’ all-black uniforms and black-clad crowd.
“For only being 15, his poise is what impresses the coaching staff, to be able to come out here and do what he did,” Scott Pierce said. “He made a couple mistakes here and there, but that wasn’t too bad.”
The win sends Northwest to the Maryland 4A West region final, where the Jaguars will face No. 10 Quince Orchard for the second time in three weeks. Northwest beat the Cougars 35-21 in their last meeting.