Northwest Coach Mike Neubeiser dialed up a squib kick to open the Jaguars’ Maryland 4A West semifinal Friday night against Churchill, hoping to catch the Bulldogs by surprise and recover a loose football. It would give his team the perfect opportunity to start fast, and it would change the scenery for his squad against Churchill, a team the Jaguars had to furiously rally by in the fourth quarter back in October.
The kick backfired, but the rest of Northwest’s game plan didn’t. Senior Matty Callahan threw for 304 yards and scored two touchdowns, and the Northwest defense forced six turnovers to cruise past third-seeded Churchill, 34-7, in Germantown. Second-seeded Northwest (8-3) will face top-seeded Quince Orchard (10-1), which beat Bethesda-Chevy Chase 55-13, in the region final next week.
The Jaguars looked like a different team this time out against the Bulldogs (7-4). On the first drive, Callahan put Northwest up 6-0 on a seven-yard touchdown pass off of a fluid play-action fake, and then converted a fourth-down call on the Churchill 35-yard line to keep the ensuing drive alive, which was capped by Tyler Ambush’s one-yard touchdown plunge.
“The key was to get going,” said Callahan, who completed 24 of 32 passes. “Sometimes we come out flat. Sometimes we let a couple big plays at the beginning of games, and the motto was to come out and execute and eliminate errors today.”
Ambush has been a key part of the Jaguars’ fall campaign, and he came to both sides of the ball Friday. Leading 20-7 late in the second quarter, Ambush snuck up from his cornerback slot and popped an unaware Churchill ball carrier in the flat, jarring the ball loose and recovering the fumble deep inside Churchill territory. He scored two plays later, on an eight-yard touchdown run, and added an interception in the fourth quarter to ice the win. Ambush finished with over 100 yards of total offense.
Dimitrius Good had three interceptions for Northwest, which held Churchill quarterback Jonathan Lee to 101 yards passing. The Bulldogs’ lone offensive highlight of the night came in the second quarter, when Lee faked out the entire Northwest defense on a misdirection call that resulted in a 44-yard touchdown run. But he was harassed by a relentless pass rush, and Lee tested Good for most of the evening.
“Basically I was just doing my job,” Good said. “Coaches, telling us throughout the week to do our jobs and be consistent, and that’s what we did.”
Next week’s region final will pit Callahan against one of the more productive defenses in the state. It is the perfect scenario for Callahan in his senior season – especially after the No. 10 Cougars gave him fits in a 24-10 win earlier this season.
“We’ve been getting ready for a while. We’re looking for a little payback,” said Callahan. “We’re going to pull this out, round two. Let’s go.”