It is that week you 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, it is known as “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 that 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.
“This year’s game should be a great game. It could end up being a classic,” said Northwest Head Coach Mike Nuebeiser, whose team will host this year’s contest. Northwest has also hosted the King’s Trophy for the last two years, winning last year’s game 46-6.
“This is for bragging rights for the Kings of Germantown,” said Seneca Valley Head Coach Fred Kim. “Virtually every kid knows each other on both teams, so it provides extra incentive and fun to be able to say at least for a year, that we own Germantown football.”
“The tone of practice is immediately different,” said Kim, who started preaching to his team about the importance of this game as soon as his team gathered after dismantling Poolesville last week. “The concentration level, enthusiasm, intensity, etc. It is a completely different atmosphere -- one of great urgency.”
This game means something for all the players. “We are playing for the ‘King’s Trophy,’,” said Nuebeiser, “and our kids are excited to be playing against their friends and former teammates in youth league. Practice is always amped up a little more when you’re playing a rival.”
Even if you can discount all the emotion that goes along with playing a cross-town rival, this second game of the season has huge playoff implications. “This game is very important, because of the 3A West and how difficult it is to get into the playoffs,” said Kim. “We know that if we win, we will help our playoff opportunity greatly. We would gain valuable points from defeating a 4A opponent and one that will have a significant amount of wins.”
Nuebeiser agrees, “This game is extremely important to both teams because it could determine playoffs seeds or if Seneca is even able to make it into the post-season in the very competitive 3A West.”
While last year’s game ended up being a Northwest blow out, this year things should be different. Seneca turned the ball over six times in last year’s contest. “That killed us,” said Kim. “We need to completely eliminate those, gain some, and have no mental errors in order to beat Northwest.” The Seneca Valley coaching staff has been emphasizing reducing mental errors to their kids all week and coming into the game with an even higher level of concentration than the Screaming Eagles showed in last week's blowout win over Poolesville.
“Our players were very fired up for the home opener,” said Kim. “We were razor sharp, hitting on all cylinders. Everything fell into place, as a result from our effort level and commitment this off-season. Poolesville was not a bad team. They are tough and well coached. They have been playoff contenders the last several years.” Kim hopes his players to channel once again that level of effort this week against their rivals from down Great Seneca Highway.
Meanwhile, Northwest has had some fine-tuning to do this week after last week’s victory over Gaithersburg. “We are working on executing, and committing fewer penalties,” said Neubeiser. “We made a lot of mistakes last week. Hopefully, we can clean things up this week.”
The Battle for the King’s Trophy starts at 6:30 pm on Friday, Sept. 11 at Northwest High School.
In other football news, Clarksburg will host MoCo powerhouse Sherwood this week in a game that could have huge playoff implications for both teams as the season cranks up. That game also kicks off at 6:30 pm at Clarksburg High School.
Damascus will host Rockville and Watkins Mill will host Gaithersburg on Friday night. While Poolesville will travel to Blair High School to play Wheaton at 2:00 pm on Saturday.
Photos of last year's Battle for the King's Trophy by Germantown Pulse.