Northwest Knocks off Quince Orchard in Regional Finals for Second Straight Year

The Northwest defense smothers Quince Orchard's running back.

Ethan Cadeaux, Sports Editor

As both Northwest and Quince Orchard’s captains made their way back to the sidelines following the coin toss, a loud roar of the “I believe we will win” chant came from the Red Army, the Quince Orchard student section. After thrashing previously number one ranked Northwest 52-27 just three weeks ago, there was very little reason for them to not have confidence.


Northwest (11-1) may have been humiliated the first time these two teams met, but the Jaguars definitely looked like their old selves this past Friday night. Relying heavily on senior running back E.J. Lee and multiple defensive adjustments the Jaguars had made since week nine, the Jaguars were able to knock off their rivals the Cougars (10-2), 28-21, for the second straight year in the Cougar Dome, in a game that literally went down to the final seconds.


Quince Orchard won the coin toss, and chose to defer to the second half. On the first play from scrimmage, Lee took junior quarterback Mark Pierce’s inside handoff right up the middle of the Cougar defense for a 76-yard touchdown run. Getting up early was very important for the Jaguars, so they could continue to run the ball.


“Getting up early, we were able to run the ball,” said Lee. “Last time, we had no choice to pass the ball, but this time we were able to stay balanced.” Lee would rush for 192 yards and two touchdowns behind the strong Jaguar offensive line, as Lee was the spark to the Jaguars victory.


“When you score first, it is a big advantage,” said Pierce. “When you can establish a run game like we did today, it opens up our offense and takes pressure off me as a quarterback.”


Pierce was not on his ‘A game’ against the Cougars, but the rest of the highly powered offense was able to make up for it. Although he only completed 7 passes, one of them went for 86 yards to senior wide receiver Brandon Williams, to stretch the Jaguar lead to two touchdowns by halftime.


As the night went on, the poor field conditions started to make an impact. Pierce, Lee, and Williams all said they had trouble planting, and Pierce said the field was like playing “on a slip and slide.”


“It was hard to get footing and hard to push those guys,” said senior captain and center Austin Wickham. “We found a way to stay physical and get the job done.”


“The ground is hard and slippery but it is no excuse,” said Pierce. “They played on the same field as us.”


Williams was playing with a very sore shoulder, but was able to “mentally block everything out and pretend like nothing happened,” he said.


In the loss to the Cougars just three weeks ago, the Jaguar defense allowed over 300 rushing yards to the dynamic combo of senior Kyle Green and sophomore Marvin Beander. After making several defensive adjustments, the Jaguars kept both Green and Beander each less than 100 yards, with neither one of them scoring a touchdown.


Linebackers and captains Brendan Thompson and Chuk Anya led the defense, who had keyed in on the Cougar run game by putting eight people in the box and leaving one on one coverage with the Cougar receivers.


“If they were going to beat us tonight it would have to be off passing the ball, not running the ball,” said Anya. “We tested their quarterback and he did not live up to the challenge, as we were able to stop him.”


The Jaguars used a very basic playbook on defense the first two times these teams met, so when the Jaguars gave the Cougars new looks tonight, the Cougars had trouble responding.


“The first time we played [Quince Orchard] was the first time we had trailed in 14 weeks,” said Anya. “It was something new to us. Our coaches always tell us, learn to be comfortable to being uncomfortable. The first game we weren’t. But this game, we came out and stood tall.”


The Jaguar defense had to stand tall, as they came up big on the last drive. With just over two minutes left in the game, the Jaguars punted to the Cougars only up by a touchdown. The Cougars had to travel 50 yards to tie the game.


On just the second play of the final drive, Thompson had to leave the game with lower body cramps, and was unable to return. The defense was now under Anya’s leadership, as they looked to make one final stop to seal their second straight regional title.


“It’s not the first time we have lost our captain [Thompson] on defense,” said Anya. “He’s our captain, our best defensive player, and our coaches always tell us ‘the next guy needs to step up’ and that is what happened today.”


After converting on a controversial fourth down catch, the Cougars had one final play at the Jaguar seven-yard line. Cougar quarterback Carson Knight rolled out of the pocket, but lost his footing due to poor field conditions and fell as time expired. The Jaguar defense came up big once again.


“I felt like I was having a heart attack,” said Northwest head coach Michael Neubeiser.


“Our defense stepped up,” said Pierce. “Give props to them. I would say they won the game for us tonight.”


On the disappointed Quince Orchard side of the field, Coach John Kelley said “I’m just proud of our kids. Our kids fought all game.” While consoling dejected players he said the Cougars had a bad start on both offense and defense and had to keep fighting to overcome that and come down to the last play of the game with a chance to win. “Our kids played hard, man.”


The Jaguars host DuVal High School (10-2) this Friday in the state semi-finals. Kickoff is at 7:00 P.M. in the Black Hole.