Northwest High School football coach Mike Neubeiser — “just being funny” — unfolded a sheet of paper from his pocket after his team's first playoff game in four years. One by one, he read off the three “musts” he had set for his players beforehand.
Asked to recap the musts afterward, Neubeiser said they were: must be physical, must do our jobs and…
“And the last one? I have to check” Neubeiser said as he reached for his pocket. “Oh. Must come out with a sense of urgency.”
Maybe Neubeiser's routine wasn't completely comedic, after all. But Northwest didn't joke around about the must Neubeiser nearly forgot.
Northwest scored on its first three possessions, playing visiting Winston Churchill evenly otherwise, in a 34-7 victory Friday — Northwest's first playoff victory in six years.
“We've kind of been up and down, so we just wanted to come out on fire,” Neubeiser said. “And we kind of did.”
Northwest (8-3) advances to the 4A West final against Quince Orchard (10-1). The Cougars defeated Northwest 24-10 in the regular season, which is the closest any 4A team has come to beating Quince Orchard this year. Quince Orchard also leads Montgomery County in points per game (40) and points allowed per game (6).
“It's going to take a lot more to prepare against these guys,” said Northwest quarterback Matty Callahan, who went 24-of-35 for 285 yards Friday. “These guys are the talk of the town.”
Northwest did its part on both sides of the ball Friday. Dimitrius Good had three of Northwest's five interceptions and delivered a big hit in the fourth quarter that had Callahan running down the sideline to congratulate him. Northwest has also stepped up offensively since losing to Quince Orchard, averaging 36 points per game in its past seven games, a mark that would rank second in the county during a full season.
Tyler Ambush (121 total yards and two rushing touchdowns), Josh Gill (113 total yards) and Ryan Markush (seven catches for 65 yards) led Northwest's balanced offense Friday. Seven players, including Lawrence Murphy, who had the game's first score, caught passes from Callahan.
“That's every game for me, honestly,” Callahan said. “I have so much fun. I'll put the ball in any one of these guys' hands, and as soon as it's out of mine, I just step back and watch and let them do their thing.”
After Northwest finished doing its thing, Churchill coach Joe Allen told his players to keep their heads up. They helped Churchill reach the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1984 and 1985.
“They have been part of the transformation that has taken place at Churchill, and I want them to know that,” Allen said. “We're going to continue to get better because of those guys.”
Northwest 34, Churchill 7
Churchill (7-4) 0 7 0 0 — 7
Northwest (8-3) 13 14 0 7 — 34
N — Lawrence Murphy 7 pass from Matty Callahan (kick failed)
N — Tyler Ambush 2 run (Tommy Beard kick)
C — Jonathan Lee 44 run (Sohrab Hoghoogi kick)
N — Byron Johnson 18 run (Tommy Beard kick)
N — Tyler Ambush 8 run (Tommy Beard kick)
N — Matty Callahan 1 run (Tommy Beard kick)
Churchill — Jonathan Lee 10-50; Malik Harris 12-29; Blake Dove 3-13; Vinny Montgillion 1-3; Harry Criswell 2-2; Juwan Hamelin 1-(-2).
Northwest — Tyler Ambush 16-56; Byron Johnson 4-35; Josh Gills 8-29; Trayvon Wright 1-5; Josh McDonald 1-(-3); Matt Watson 1-(-3); Lawrence Murphy 1-(-4); Matty Callahan 5-(-12).
Churchill — Jonathan Lee 9-31-94-5.
Northwest — Matty Callahan 24-35-285-1; Jake Longenecker 0-1-0-0
Churchill — Dominique Williams 3-46; Jesse Locke 2-26; Adrien Bossogo-Egoume 2-15; Joe Nolan 2-7.
Northwest — Josh Gills 5-84; Ryan Markush 7-65; Tyler Ambush 7-65; Josh McDonald 3-50; Connor Allen 1-14; Lawrence Murphy 1-7.