“It will be a slugfest,” said Seneca Valley Head Coach Fred Kim of Friday’s football game.
When Damascus visits Seneca Valley on Friday the two titans of the 2015 Montgomery County football season will collide in a game that has huge playoff implications for both teams.
Damascus is the runner-up for the 2014 Division 3A state championship. Seneca Valley went 8-2 last season and missed the playoffs in 2014. Last season, Damascus beat Seneca Valley 46-13. But that was last year.
This year the Damascus Swarmin’ Hornets are undefeated. The Seneca Valley Screaming Eagles are also undefeated. Both teams have played similar schedules, each has beaten up on the same six teams. Poolesville, Rockville, Watkins Mill, Wheaton, Blake, and Magruder. When you combine the scores of those six games, Damascus scored 313 points and allowed just 52. Against those same six teams, Seneca Valley scored 303 points and allowed just 50 points.
Where two schedules differ, Damascus defeated very good Quince Orchard team 39-17 in the first week of the season. However, Seneca Valley defeated two-time 4A State Champs Northwest 14-7 in the second week of the season. The only other difference is Damascus beat Whitman 63-7 and Seneca Valley beat Churchill 60-0.
This match-up is arguable the biggest high school football game in Maryland all season, and a hug crowd is expected at Seneca Valley High School to watch this clash of titans. “It is hard to tell numbers — but we are expecting a very large crowd,” said Seneca Valley’s Athletic Director Jesse Irvin. “People should purchase pre-sale tickets at either school during lunch Wednesday, Thursday or Friday this week to avoid a long wait.”
Irvin said that the gates to the field would be open at 5:00 pm on Friday to accommodate the expected large crowd. “We are opening both gates for the first time in at least seven years, so the people may park and enter on the tennis court side of the field,” said Irvin. He said they school has also provided additional bathrooms to accommodate the crowd. He suggested that folks going to the game plan to arrive early.
“I am really excited for the crowd on Friday,” said Seneca Valley Principal Marc Cohen. “I think it is going to be the best that Germantown has to offer. It will be a great night for football. Two great teams playing for home field advantage in the playoffs.
Cohen is anticipating somewhere near 4,000 to 5,000 people coming out on Friday night. “We have gone out of our way to make sure there is a great fan experience. There will be lots of folks selling concessions. It is Youth Night, so we have invited some youth football and cheering organizations to come and be a part of the game and be recognized on field. We have worked hard to make this a community event.”
While the school itself is making a lot of changes with the expectation of a large crowd, the teams are not concerned about playing in front of so many people.
“The good things is that we played Northwest in a large crowd earlier this year,” said Seneca Valley’s Head Coach Fred Kim. “Therefore, it will not be anything they haven’t seen this year. I am certain, the Northwest game had just about as many spectators as there will be for this game.”
Damascus on the other hand is used to playing in front of large crowds, according to Head Coach Eric Wallich. “Playing at Damascus the crowds are always big especially for big games,” said Wallich. “Most of these kids have been in big games before and the moment isn’t too big for them. We are looking at this game as an opportunity to create a memory and give us home field advantage through the playoffs.”
Coach Kim said that while the intensity level at practice has been increased because of the opponent, the Seneca coaching staff did not have to do much to keep the team on an even keel. “Our players are smarter and more experienced this year,” said Kim. “They know last year, we were overhyped and drained our energy in last year’s contests against both Northwest and Damascus. They let their nerves get to them which resulted in poor execution. We did not have to bring that point up as a staff as the players were the ones that focused in on that aspect of the game. And I can tell they have owned up to that task thus far during the practice week.”
The game is a match of two very good running backs. Damascus has Maryland University commit Jake Funk, who has rushed for over 1,200 yards and 25 touchdowns this season for the Hornets. While Seneca’s Adrian Feliz-Platt has been the offensive workhorse for the Screaming Eagles, scoring multiple touchdowns in every game.
“We need to gang tackle him and not allow him to bulldoze us for four quarters,” said Kim, when asked how the Eagles were going to stop Funk. “He has pummeled opponents who have tried to tackle him with poor technique and individually. We cannot allow that to happen and let him carry the team. We have to trade blows with him and equate his delivery with our own and not stop.”
Meanwhile, Coach Wallich is preparing his team to stop Feliz-Platt. “The biggest thing is tackling and swarming to the football. He is going to make plays. We just need to limit the big plays,” said Wallich.
While Seneca Valley’s running game is fearsome with Feliz-Platt and Darius Golston both a threat to break off a big run on any play. The passing game was questionable after senior starting quarterback Petey Gaskins went down last week in an injury in the game against Blake. However, Coach Kim says that Gaskins was practicing all week and will play on Friday.
While Seneca Valley has a long and storied football tradition, this team has something to prove to themselves and to the County.
“For now they are the top team,” said Kim of Damascus. “They have earned all of their accolades. They return one of the top players in the state if not the best and were within a few plays away from winning the state title. They are extremely well coached, have sound disciplined players, and a great community as well as administration that backs them 100 percent. Until someone beats them, they are the top team in the area”
“We are coming off an 8-2 season in 2014 and not earning a playoff berth in the last two years, not mentioned the pounding we took last year. We are clearly the underdogs. We will accept that position. However, we are hungry and determined as ever for a victory.”