Churchill’s defense knocks out undefeated Northwest

POTOMAC – The Northwest High School football team has been dominant all season with an undefeated 6-0 record under new head coach Bucky Clipper.

However, the run ended when the Jaguars took on 5-1 Churchill Thursday night. In the defensive affair, the Bulldogs tamed Northwest, earning a critical 15-7 victory, handing the Jaguars their first loss of the season.

“They’re a state power,” said Churchill head coach Joe Rydzewski. “It felt great that we had a group of kids that didn’t back down. We brought it to them.”

Both teams started with multiple three-and-out drives, as their defenses found ways to stymie each other’s offenses.

The game’s first score finally came late into the first quarter after Bulldogs quarterback Vasi Hallas rushed in a 3-yard touchdown run.

“The fact that we could control the time of possession and put our defense in some good spots,” said Rydzewski, “and then our defense performed. The offensive line and David [Avit] were awesome.”

Northwest responded with over two minutes left in the half when quarterback David Davis found Rahmise Jones deep downfield for the 64-yard touchdown.

Churchill attempted a field goal at the end of the first half, but a fumbled snap resulted in holder Lance Hersh running with the ball and scoring a touchdown instead. Following a blocked extra point, the Bulldogs entered halftime ahead 13-7.

“[Ian] Larsen’s has been consistent this whole year,” said Hersh. “Just one mistake. We’ve been practicing all week long. Our coaches told us, ‘If something bad happens, just yell fire,’ and then make the best out of it, and that’s what we did there.”

As Northwest attempted to move the ball upfield, Davis was intercepted by Allen Huebl.

The defensive affair continued into the fourth quarter with a series of back-to-back-to-back defensive plays by both teams. First, Northwest fumbled the ball and gave the ball to the Bulldogs, but then an interception gave the Jaguars the ball back.

However, deep in Northwest’s end zone, Davis was stripped of the ball, and a teammate recovered it in the end zone, resulting in a safety.

“It felt great,” said Hersh. “It felt like as a team win, [the] defense just showed out, and offense chewed the clock in the last four minutes of the game, really put it away.”

Churchill alum and Temple and Kansas City Chiefs running back Paul Palmer, who attended the game, spoke to the Bulldogs players in a postgame speech.

“We’re going to compete every week,” said Rydzewski. “No matter who we play, we’re going to compete. I’m just proud of these guys. They battle.”

For Churchill, the win was a message to the rest of the state that it would be a tough contest for any opposing sides facing the Bulldogs during the playoffs.

“We’re building something special here,” said Hersh. “That’s all we can say. Proud to be a bulldog.”

“Coach R is building something humungous here,” said Huebl. “Three years ago, it was a completely different program. Our one goal: We’re going to win.”

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