GERMANTOWN – The nicknames bestowed upon players on Northwest High School’s football team read like something out of a comic book. There is a wide receiver referred to as “Rocket Man,” and another who is called “K-Man.” Then there’s a running back who is nicknamed “Mack Truck,” a moniker that speaks for itself.
Senior Ajahni Terry does not have “Mack” in his real name, but he received his on-field alias due to his punishing, ground-and-pound running style and his flair for running through defenders. Terry’s extensive skill set has helped lead the Jaguars (4-0) to an undefeated start to the season, and when Northwest hosted Richard Montgomery High School on Sept. 27, his team-high two touchdowns helped his team hand the Rockets their first loss of the season by the score of 41-14.
Terry said that he deviated from his “Mack Truck” running style against Richard Montgomery (3-1) because he wanted to showcase his versatility as a feature back.
“I kind of stepped out of my comfort zone a little bit and didn’t run people over as much. I used a little bit of wiggle this time,” said Terry. “I just wanted to show the colleges that I can do both.”
While Terry ran roughshod over the Richard Montgomery defenders, the Northwest defense was busy blanking the Rockets in the second half. Despite defensive penalties against the Jaguars and a pair of fourth-down conversion attempts, Richard Montgomery did not enter the end zone at all in the second half.
Northwest also contained Rockets running back T’Kai Ayoola for most of the evening. The senior entered the game as the No. 2 running back in Montgomery County in both yards earned and touchdowns scored, but the Jaguars held Ayoola to uncharacteristic short runs for little yardage. Ayoola’s biggest run of the night came in the second quarter when he broke away from defenders and unleashed an 84-yard touchdown to put the Rockets on the board.
“(Northwest) has got a couple of big defensive ends that are a real physical mismatch for us up front,” said Richard Montgomery Head Coach Joshua Klotz. “It’s similar to the last couple of times that we’ve played them. T’Kai broke that long run, same as last year when he broke a long one. It’s kind of typical when we play them. We were hoping to make more plays in the passing game, but we just didn’t make every play that we could have.”
Meanwhile, the Jaguars scored on their second possession as Terry and wide receiver “Rocket Man” Ryan Beach worked in tandem to get the ball down the field. Quarterback Jordan Morse finished off the drive with a 19-yard touchdown.
Morse then connected with “K-Man” Kaden Prather a few plays later for a 37-yard score. Prather gained separation against his defender and caught Morse’s pass in stride; the rest of Prather’s path was clear as the senior darted to the end zone.
The Jaguars were building a substantial first-half lead when Richard Montgomery sophomore wide receiver Tidiane Epps registered a 21-yard run, which landed the Rockets in the red zone. Junior quarterback Kieran Chai-Onn searched for an open receiver on first-and-goal at the 3-yard line, but when an open player failed to materialize, Chai-Onn kept the ball himself for the score.
Chai-Onn’s touchdown ended up being Richard Montgomery’s last scoring play. The Jaguars, though, picked up where they left off from the first half. Terry and Beach scored on back-to-back drives; the Rockets blocked the extra point attempt on Beach’s touchdown, which ended up being the final touchdown of the game.
“We fought through adversity; when they scored, we came back and scored,” said Terry. “We came out of the half and shut them out and just kept scoring.”
“It was more about us just executing offensively, eliminating penalties and things like that, and not having turnovers,” said Northwest Head Coach Mike Neubeiser. “We’re trying not to have turnovers, just playing smart football and not beating ourselves. That’s kind of slowed us down a little bit over the past few weeks…we’ve cleaned some things up, but we still have a long way to go.”
Next up for the Jaguars is a trip to Gaithersburg High School on Oct. 4. Meanwhile, the Rockets will travel to face the 4-0 Walter Johnson Wildcats. The Wildcats are off to their best start in more than 20 years.
“I think it’s a wake-up call for our guys; that we’re not where we want to be at,” said Klotz. “Our guys have been working hard to get there, but it’s one setback and it’s Week Four. We turn our attention to still-undefeated WJ and we go into next week. We have another big challenge, but it should be fun.”