By Kevin O’Rourke
It is that week you look start looking forward to the second players step on the field in late July. The week that settles scores, continues tradition, and makes a King. If you play football for Northwest, its “Seneca Week,” if you play for Seneca Valley its “Northwest Week.” Everything that happens in practice takes on a greater intensity, the nervous energy at practice feeds on anxiety, as players wait for the adrenalin rush of Friday night.
Rivalries are great. Cross-town rivalries are the best. Rivalries in which teams play against players they’ve played with in youth programs and grown-up with, been friends with, and hang out with -- those are amazing. Add a trophy called, “The King’s Trophy,” – and that is the stuff of legend.
Football fans in Germantown are in for a treat Friday night under the lights at Seneca Valley High School, two impressive teams will meet with bragging rights on the line, as the Northwest Jaguars, defending 4A Maryland State Champions will travel 2.5 miles north on Great Seneca Highway to face the Screaming Eagles of Seneca Valley.
Northwest currently holds the title “Kings of Germantown” after a 20-13 win in last year’s Battle of Germantown, but Seneca Valley holds the lifetime edge winning eight of the ten games the two teams have faced off.
Both teams are unbeaten this season and have been able to overcome opponents easily. However, the Jags are rolling over teams and have not given up a single point, the Screaming Eagles, on the other hand, have needed to take some hits before finding their game and playing their best.
Seneca Valley Head Coach Fred Kim knows his team can’t go down 14-0 to Northwest the way they did to Rockville High School last Friday. “We started slow again, fortunately only for a quarter instead of a half,” said Kim. “We picked things up in the second quarter especially defensively. Our defensive backs were playing tentative, overly cautious in making mistakes. Once we settled down, we played our game and were able to shut them down and force turnovers.”
Coach Kim knows that can’t happen against Northwest, “We can’t come out flat,” said Kim. “If we fall behind early, it will be a huge challenge to fight back, but we have shown we can.”
But Kim is not overly concerned about coming out flat this week, “The difference this week will be that our kids will be much more hyped up to play Northwest. They are our rivals and beat us last year. Our motivation should not be an issue this week and we should, without question, come out sky high instead of flat.”
However, Northwest will be ready, “Our kids are always excited about facing Seneca Valley,” said Coach Michael Nuebeiser. “They are one of the most storied programs in the history of Maryland football. Coach Kim and his staff do a tremendous job with their program. They are always one of the top teams in Montgomery County.”
Kim understands how much these game means to his kids, “It absolutely, 100 percent has added meaning. We are playing for the King’s Trophy,” said Kim. “We are 2.5 miles away from each other. All the players know each other having played together on youth teams, they are former neighbors and school mates in middle school. When we know each other that well and are pitted against each other, it increases the stakes, especially for bragging rights. It will be heated and everyone in Germantown will be there and excited to watch the game.”
While Nuebisier is confident his kids will be hyped for the game, he hopes the rivalry hype doesn’t distract the Jags from the business at hand. “The most difficult thing to do in a rivalry game is to focus on fundamentals and just execute because there is so much hype going into the game. Hopefully we can eliminate costly errors and play at a high level,” said Nuebeiser.
The Screaming Eagles have overcome two slow starts to notch wins over Wheaton High School (35-0) in week one, and Rockville (36-14) last week, but Coach Kim knows taking the King’s Trophy from Northwest won’t be easy.
“They will be tough to beat,” said Kim. “They have weapons everywhere and an experienced offensive line to anchor the offense. The biggest challenge will be to contain their quarterback Mark Pierce. He is the best QB in the county, if not the state. He shredded defenses in the spring passing league. He has pin point accuracy, is tough, and most importantly a great leader for his team. I’ve watched him in the spring league and there is no question who is the leader on the field. Then after Pierce, we have to stop E.J. Lee, an outstanding back with great quickness and speed. The offense is loaded. And, we can’t forget about the defense. They also have a veteran group and are very athletic. They can run you down and stuff you inside.”
Northwest is coming off two blow-out wins over Magruder High School (43-0) and Richard Montgomery High School (49-0). Nuebeiser is pleased with the way his offense is clicking and praised the Jag’s offensive line play, “The line is playing at a high level and our running game is a strength for the first time since 2011 when our coaching staff started coaching.”
The Jags seem to be firing on all cylinders as the defense is keeping teams out of the endzone and both the offense and special teams are having no problems finding it. Last week special teams returned both a punt and kick-off for touchdowns. “I was happy with our intensity and focus last week against Richard Montgomery. We still had too many mental errors but overall we improved. We had another touchdown called back in the fourth quarter on punt return for a block in the back. Our defense played faster last week but still needs to work on reading and trusting their keys.”
Coach Nuebeiser knows his team will be tested this week, “Seneca has an excellent running back in Adrian Feliz-Platt and their quarterback is a dual threat to run or pass. They are also big and physical on the offensive and defensive lines. It will be a close and exciting game to watch,” said Nuebeiser.
The game is slated for 6:30 pm Friday night, is also Military Appreciation night. Seneca Valley High School will be honoring the Men and Women who are serving or have served our country with a Military Appreciation Night. In honor of this night the athletic department has several things planned to add to the festivities, including the U.S. Army Hummer and activities such as a Rock Wall and football toss, a pull-up bar and a chance to win $100 gift card.
Seneca Valley will also honor one of its students that best fits the seven core values of the U.S. Army with an on field presentation.
All folks attending the game are encouraged to wear red, white and blue to help celebrate our nation and the contributions of its veterans. Gates will open at 3:30 pm for the pre-game Military Appreciation tailgate activities, and the game is set for 6:30 pm.
In other news, Northwest’s Coach Nuebeiser has been named to the staff of Team Maryland for the 58th Annual BIG 33 High School All-Star Football Classic. Nuebeiser will serve as defensive coordinator of the all-star team for the game which will be played June 20, 2015 in Hershey, Pa. The game pits the best high school football players in Maryland against the best of Pennsylvania.
“I am excited for the opportunity to coach and participate in the Big33 game,” said Nuebeiser. “I’m not sure many of the people in Maryland realize how special and unique the Big33 game is. There has never been a Super Bowl played without a Big33 Player on at least one of the two rosters. Some alumni include: Joe Namath, Joe Montana, Tony Dorsett, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly and Ben Roethlisberger.”
Nuebeiser played in the Big33 game in 1990. “It is one of my most memorable experiences in football as a player or coach.” Last year, Northwest had three players participate in the Big33 game, with then Northwest senior, Rasheed Gillis grabbing the game winning interception for Team Maryland. “I am looking forward to helping Maryland compete for a second straight victory,” said Nuebeiser.
Top: Game Time - Battle of Germantown.
Next: Northwest's Mark Pierce prepares to pass against Richard Montgomery.
Next: Seneca Valley's Adrian Feliz-Platt breaks through the line against Rockville.
Next: Northwest's Special Teams have come up big this season.
Next: Seneca Valley's Zack Robinson reads the defense.
Next: Mark Pierce hands to Northwest's E.J. Lee.
Next: Seneca Valley's Xavier Robinson in coverage.
Photos by Germantown Pulse