When the Seneca Valley Screaming Eagles host the Poolesville Falcons on Friday evening in Germantown, it will be the beginning of what Seneca hopes will be a near-perfect season.
Seneca Valley High School has long been synonymous with good football – 12 state titles, 12 regional titles, and 18 divisional titles – speak to the school’s football pedigree, but in recent years the Screaming Eagles have been struggling to make the playoffs and recent changes to the state divisional structure haven't made it any easier.
Last year, Seneca Valley posted an enviable 8-2 record, but still missed the postseason in the Maryland 3A West Region. It doesn’t get any easier this year. According to Seneca Valley Athletic Director Jesse Irvin, “There is not a tougher region in the state. We could go 9-1 and not make the playoffs. That is pretty hard to believe.”
In the spring of 2015 the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association announced they were reworking the makeup of the schools in each division and the result is a tougher 3A West Division, and a very difficult task for Seneca Valley to make the playoffs. Due to the strength of the new schools and the high caliber non-divisional teams that Seneca plays such as, cross-town rival and two-time 4A Division State Champions Northwest.
While the Seneca Valley/Damascus rivalry is still the biggest in-division game, the bigger threats to Seneca’s post season may come from teams outside of Montgomery County that are not on the Screaming Eagles schedule. “You can look at Westminster, who have made a few runs a couple years ago. Linganore is always good. Oakdale is up and coming and doing very well. Urbana and Damascus we know how good they are. It is tough,” said Irvin.
Seneca Valley Head Coach Fred Kim agrees, “It will be even harder. The 3A West removed three non-playoff teams and added three playoff teams to the division. And with four different counties in the 3A West, theoretically, all four county top representatives could go 10-0 in their league and make the playoffs. Thus, 9-1, 8-2, could not get you in the playoffs.”
“It is the region we are in,” said Irvin, “If you win the games you make the playoffs. But if you look at the 4A schedule that we have to play, not all the other teams in the region have to play that same level of competition.” This season Seneca Valley will play 4A Northwest, Gaithersburg, and Churchill. “We are a good team, and you want to play good teams,” said Irvin. “But there is a chance that we could go 9-1, including beating Damascus, but loose to back-to-back state champions Northwest and not make the playoffs. That would be frustrating to the kids and the coaching staff if that happened, especially if you look at other regions where a team could go 6-4 and make the playoffs.”
However, nobody on the field for the Screaming Eagles wants to know anything about how the changes in the region work against their post-season chances, all they are concerned with is getting better, according to Coach Kim.
“We worked even harder than we have in the previous years,” said Kim. “We eliminated dead weight and have recommitted ourselves to the program. We will be relentless in our pursuit back to the top of the 3A Division.”
Indeed, the 2015 version of the Seneca Valley Screaming Eagles has a roster of only 33 players. “We have a very small team. One of the smallest ever,” said Irvin. “But our starting 22 will match up with anybody in the state, but we have to stay healthy. We don’t have a lot of depth.”
Most of the top players from last year’s team have returned, according to Kim, with 16 total starters coming back, including, senior wide receivers Antonio Fox and Lee Chase-Ervin, and senior offensive tackle Michael Hite, as well as senior linebacker Kendal Pinales.
Seneca is returning a number of players in skills positions including last year’s outstanding junior running back Adrian Feliz-Platt (5-foot-7, 175 pounds). Coach Kim is expecting a “massive” season from Feliz-Platt. “He is bigger, stronger, faster, quicker, and hungry. Anything short of a tremendous season will be shocking,” said Kim. Seneca will also return junior running back Darius Golston, who pounded defenses and gave Coach Kim change of pace back to give the ball too last season.
Also returning is junior quarterback Zack Robinson, who has been challenged in camp by transfer Clarence “Petey” Gaskins, who was the starting signal caller for Gaithersburg last season. Coach Kim has not named a starting QB for Friday’s home opener against Poolesville, but said, “Both kids are competing for the job. And this has improved competition that makes everyone work better.”
The Eagles will host Poolesville at 6:30 pm on Friday. Last year, Poolesville went 7-4 in the 1A Division last year, but this year will play a full Montgomery County 3A schedule under new head coach Dave Murray. Murray, formerly an offensive coordinator, replaced Will Gant as coach at Poolesville in the Spring.
A team moving up from the smaller division, with a new head coach, playing a road game might be easy to overlook when the second game of the season is the Battle of Germantown against Northwest. But Coach Kim is not worried about his team overlooking anybody.
“We are not good enough to look past anyone,” said Kim. “We will take it one game at a time. Poolesville has made the playoffs the last four years. They are respectable. They are tough. They are well coached. They will be a tremendous challenge for us.”
Top: Seneca Valley’s junior running back Adrian Feliz-Platt (7) scampers for one of his many touchdowns during last year’s 8-2 campaign. Feliz-Platt is back again this season and hopes to run the Screaming Eagles into the playoffs.
Next: Seneca Valley’s junior quarterback Zack Robinson (5) is being challenged for the starting spot by transfer Petey Gaskins from Gaithersburg.
Next: The 2015 Seneca Valley High School varsity football team. Photo by SVHS.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.