The stage was set. The 5-0 Panthers versus the 5-0 Jaguars. No one had come close to beating either team. So it came as a bit of a shock to the rest of the county when Northwest easily defeated Paint Branch, 49-6, last Friday night.
Northwest continued its streak of scoring 40-plus points, which they have done in every game this season. Paint Branch, a team that entered Friday’s contest averaging 32 points a game, was held to a season-low six points, thanks to the stout Northwest defense.
Jaguar junior quarterback Mark Pierce continued his incredible season by adding four more touchdown passes, three to senior wide receiver Brandon Williams. Williams has caught five touchdown passes in the past two weeks.
“It feels great to just come out here and contribute to your team,” said Williams. “With perfect blocks and perfect throws, (the 49-6 win) is what happens.”
“We were the better team today,” said Pierce. “We dominated on all three sides of the ball.”
Besides Pierce and Williams, the Northwest offense continued to feature a heavy dosage of running back E.J. Lee and wide receiver Jamar Wilson. These two delivered the play that turned the Paint Branch game into a rout.
With just under 11 minutes left in the second quarter, Northwest was going to punt the ball back to Paint Branch at a point where the momentum was starting to favor Paint Branch. Instead of punting the ball, however, Wilson fired a pass to Lee, who took it down the sidelines for 60 yards into the end zone, putting Northwest up 22-0.
“We work real hard in practice. This was a very important week,” said Wilson. “We upset them on their homecoming (last year). We couldn’t let them do that in our house to us (this year).”
“We stayed focused,” said Lee. “That’s all we have to do. Listen to our coaches, watch film, and stay in.”
Both Lee and Wilson were dominant throughout the game, accounting for another score each in addition to the fake punt. Lee scored on a three-yard run to open the game, and Wilson caught a 59-yard bubble screen for a touchdown to put the Jaguars up 43 points midway through the fourth quarter.
The offensive line was dominant once again, despite facing one of the best defensive lines in the county in Paint Branch.
“We worked as a team,” said senior guard Max Hughes. “We didn’t let the number one nose guard and number one linebacker (rankings according to mocofootball.com board) in the county hold us back.”
Though the offense has been incredible this whole season, the Jaguar defense has only allowed 12 combined points between their first six opponents. Paint Branch scored only 6 points, 26 below their season average.
“(Defensive coordinator Kevin) Corpuz and the defensive guys just do a great job setting up and changing things week to week,” said head coach Mike Neubeiser. “Our kids buy in. We try to create a simple system where there are rules that they follow, they pay attention to detail, and do a great job.”
The Jaguars forced two turnovers, including a Paint Branch fumble early in the second quarter, which was returned by senior captain and linebacker Chuk Anya inside the 10- yard line, setting up a Williams touchdown.
“Everything they did out there, we practiced,” said Anya. “We stopped the run and the pass the majority of the game—it was great team football.”
Wilson also added a touchdown in the fourth quarter, inside the Northwest 10 to put the icing on the cake.
“Our defense is aggressive, scrappy, and physical; they do their job,” said Pierce. “When everyone does their job, nobody can score on us. Paint Branch has a very good offense and to hold them to 6 points is amazing.”
Paint Branch had been expected to provide more competition for Northwest than had their previous opponent. A week earlier, Northwest had traveled to Blake High School and shut out the Bengals, 48-0. The Jaguars set the tone early, scoring on a 22-yard run by running back Shyheim Wright and a 35-yard touchdown pass from Pierce to Williams for a 14-0 first quarter lead. Two more touchdown passes, to Wilson and Williams again, gave Northwest an insurmountable 27-0 halftime lead.
In the second half, it was more of the same. Touchdown runs by Lee, Kevin Proctor, and freshman Juwon Farri completed the scoring. The defense put in another strong performance, led by T.J. Patterson and Latif Mahamadou, each of whom recovered a fumble, and Brendan Thompson and Martin Foray, both of whom had interceptions.
Northwest travels to Wootton High School Thursday, Oct. 16, to face the 4-2 Patriots. Kickoff is at 6:30 p.m. at James A. Coles Field.