By Kevin O'Rourke
At mid-week last week, the Montgomery County football world was abuzz with anticipation for the showdown between the only unbeaten 4A teams in the county, and then the Northwest Jaguars beat the Paint Branch Panthers by 49-6. This week, many football pundits have all-but given the state championship crown to Northwest, and there is not much buzz about Thursday night’s game at Wootton.
However Jaguars Head Coach Michael Neubeiser cautions that “Wootton is a very good football team. Wootton is the best passing team we have seen this year.”
While Coach Neubeiser was pleased with his team’s performance on Friday, the outcome was even a bit of surprise to him. “I was hoping we would win by a decent margin but did not expect to be up by 35 points with seven minutes left in the first half,” said Neubeiser. “Our offense is playing very efficiently, scoring on about 85 percent of our possessions.”
“I was very excited going into the Paint Branch game because there was so much chatter back and forth between our teams prior to the game,” said Neubeiser of last Friday’s game. “It was like the weigh in before a big fight when both boxers say a few things to the opponent to try to get them off their game. The Paint Branch players did a good job of getting our player's attention through social media. There were a lot of comments made that caused our players to really focus on playing a perfect game against Paint Branch. It made my job as a motivator very easy.”
Coach said he felt good going into the Paint Branch game because the team had a great week of practice, probably as a result of the verbal sparring on social media, and the general importance of the game. “Our players are starting to fine tune their play,” he said.
And that fine tuning is allowing the coaching staff to continue to add more elements, especially on defense, where the Jags have only allowed two touchdowns all season, one to Paint Branch and one to Seneca Valley. Both touchdowns came only after Northwest was already up by 35 points.
Coach Nuebeiser said that the Jaguars defensive players are growing more and more comfortable with the defensive scheme which has allowed defensive coordinator Kevin Corpuz to add more plays, coverages, and stunts each week. “On defense we have worked on playing faster and swarming to the ball,” he said. “By the end of the regular season we should have a lot of looks that we can throw at the opponents.”
Nuebeiser said that Jags defense will tested again this week as they face 4-2 Wootton. “We have our work cut out for us on defense.” Neubeiser praised Wootton quarterback Sam Ellis, his o-line and receivers. “Ellis has a lot of experience and does an excellent job of running their offense. Their offensive line is young, but they are physical. They work well together. The receiving corps runs good routes and rarely drops the ball. Coach Tolliver has done a great job with their program.”
Northwest has dominated the series with Wootton over the years winning six of the seven meetings between the two schools. The only loss came in 2010. Last season, Northwest won 39-17 on the way to the State Championship.
This season Wootton has win over Walter Johnson, Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Whitman, and Gaithersburg. Wootton has losses to Churchill, is coming off a 34-7 loss at Clarksburg last week.