Maryland 4A semifinals preview: Northwest-Paint Branch, Meade-Suitland

Host B.J. Koubaroulis previews the Maryland 4A semifinal game between No. 5 Suitland and No. 10 Meade. (Nick Plum for Synthesis/Koubaroulis LLC./The Washington Post)
Maryland 4A semifinals

No. 9 Northwest at No. 8 Paint Branch

Friday, 7 p.m.

At stake: A berth in the Maryland 4A final on Dec. 6 at M&T Bank Stadium

Watch for: Paint Branch quarterback Gaston Cooper. The 6-foot, 180-pound Cooper leads the Panthers (11-1) in rushing (583 yards) and passing (2,882) and has produced a combined 59 touchdowns this season, with 37 of those through the air. He threw for 304 yards and two touchdowns in a 51-48 shootout win over Perry Hall in the Maryland 4A North final last week, and he will rely heavily on senior receiver Javonn Curry (70 catches, 18 touchdowns). Northwest (10-2) beat Quince Orchard on the Cougars’ home field for the second time in three weeks in last Friday’s Maryland 4A West final, which was defined by a strong defensive effort in the second half. Jaguars quarterback Mark Pierce continued his sensational sophomore campaign, leading Northwest on three touchdown drives during the first 14 minutes of the game

Skinny: The Jaguars rallied from a 21-7 halftime deficit to beat Paint Branch 31-28 in overtime on October 11, with Diego Melendez hitting the game-winning 32-yard field goal. Northwest has won five of six games since that night, while Paint Branch has responded with six straight victories, scoring 35 points or more in each contest. The Panthers are averaging 42 points a game, while Northwest is allowing just 12.5 points per contest.

Joshua Gills has been a playmaker in all three facets of the game for Northwest this season. The Jaguars will need another productive night from him when they travel to face one of the area’s most explosive offenses at Paint Branch. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

No. 10 Meade at No. 5 Suitland

Saturday, 1 p.m.

At stake: A berth in the Maryland 4A final on Dec. 6 at M&T Bank Stadium

Watch for: Meade running back Kyle Evans. Despite missing parts of three games with a sprained ankle, the speedy senior has racked up more than 1,900 rushing yards this season, including a 367-yard outburst in Week 6. But Evans and the Mustangs haven’t faced a defense like Suitland’s. The Rams (12-0) have allowed just eight points per game this season and have one of the area’s most disruptive linebackers in senior Anthony Jackson. Evans’ effectiveness running the ball could set the tone for the Mustangs (10-2).

Skinny: Suitland returns to the 4A semifinals for the first time since 2007 in search of its first state title since 2006. The Mustangs have now made the semifinal round in back-to-back seasons after falling to eventual state champion Wise in the semis last year. Meade has never played in a state championship game.

Roman Stubbs covers the University of Maryland athletics for The Washington Post.

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