For most teams, reaching the 4A Regional Finals in the playoffs can be considered a success.
The Northwest Jaguars — who won the state title as recently as 2013 and 2014 and have made the playoffs every season since 2012 — are not like most teams.
“We had goals of getting to the state championship, so in that respect, we underachieved a bit,” Head Coach Mike Neubeiser said. “With our talent level, we should have done better. Ultimately, we had injuries to some of our best players and it really, really hurt us. But it is part of football.”
The Jags have been a consistently formidable team with Neubeiser at the helm the past seven seasons. He says the key to that consistency has been strong offseason training and workouts, which the team starts in December right after the previous season ends.
The Jags will have a new look on offense this year as longtime offensive coordinator Justin Sickeri has left to become head coach at Poolesville High School. Coach Pat O’Donnell has moved up from coaching the junior varsity to take over as the offensive coordinator spot for the Jags. Neubeiser has also added Northwest alum and Virginia Tech quarterback Ike Whitaker to the coaching staff for a second stint as an assistant at his alma mater; he is working as the quarterback coach.
“Working out year-long and getting kids stronger and faster is the biggest thing to maintaining success and having a high expectation level,” Neubeiser said.
Some of Northwest’s returning seniors this year include defensive end DeAndre Jules, cornerback AJ Woods, linebacker/running back Isaiah Bishop, quarterback Jack Anders, wide receiver/defensive back Andrew Howard and running back/safety Roderick James.
Underclassmen for the Jags include juniors tackle Patrick Diomi, running back/linebacker Ajahni Terry and slotback/safety Isiah Williams. Newcomers to the team for 2018 include senior offensive tackle Gottlieb Ayedze, sophomore linebacker Brian Nichols, and senior defensive tackle Daniel Worthy.
As the beginning of the season draws closer, Neubeiser is impressed by his team’s efforts in preseason training, but the season is still young.
“The work ethic’s been good, attention to detail’s been good, enthusiasm’s been good, so we’re checking off all the boxes of the things you want to do,” Neubeiser said. “Execution’s been solid. We have a long way to go, like everyone else, but so far everyone’s been in good spirits.”
Rather than having a team-wide goal for the season, Neubeiser instead pushes individual groups to set and reach their own goals, such as the defense limiting opposing teams to a certain number of points. He believes these unit-specific goals will help the team improve every week.
“We’re just trying to focus on the little things,” he said.
As one of the top 4A teams in the region, Northwest has an appropriately tough schedule this Fall. Notable matchups include the Week 1 season opener at home against Wootton, Week 4 at home against rival Seneca Valley in the Battle for the King’s Trophy, Week 5 at home against top D.C. area school Good Counsel, and Week 9 at home against last year’s 4A state finalist and bitter rivals Quince Orchard.
The Jags will open at home on Friday, Aug. 31 first as they host the Wootton Patriots. Wootton finished last season 6-4. The Jags and the Patriots met in last years’ season opener at Wootton. That game ended in a 53-36 victory for Northwest.
Top: Northwest Jaguars are preparing for the 2018 season with a new attitude, according to their head coach.
Next: Northwest Head Coach Mike Neubeiser.
Next: The Jags will look to senior quarterback Jack Anders (17) to help lead the team back to the State Championship this season.
Next: The Jags camp workouts have shown the coaching staff that this group has come into the season with a new attitude. Photo by Billy Owens
Photos by Germantown Pulse, unless otherwise noted.