When Justin Sickeri accepted the job to take over as head football coach at the most historically successful high school football program in Maryland, he knew that he was stepping into more than a coaching job.
On Wednesday night, Seneca Valley High School’s Athletic Director, Jesse Irvin, announced that Justin Sickeri would be the new Screaming Eagles head coach for the 2019 season. Sickeri was spent six years as offensive coordinator with cross-town rival Northwest High School, and most recently, spent one year as head coach at Poolesville High School.
“I know this not just another coaching job,” said Sickeri, “There is so much history here — so much football history — and the thought of not just being a part of that history but having the opportunity to turn the program around, and the excitement associated with the brand new school being built make this an amazing opportunity.”
Sickeri, currently a teacher at Poolesville High school, spent last season as the Falcons Head football coach, after spending the previous six at Northwest High School. While at Northwest, he helped guide the Jaguars to back to back State Championships in 2014 and 2015.
This will, of course, bring another element to the great King’s Trophy Game, the cross-town rivalry between the Germantown Schools. While the game is taking a hiatus for two years due to a change in State playoff format, Sickeri said he hopes to have the Eagles ready to take the crown back for the Jaguars in 2021. “Coach Neubeiser, at Northwest, is already calling me a ‘frenemy,” joked Sickeri.
For the next two years, Seneca Valley will be playing an Independent schedule, and not be associated with a specific division or region, according to Irvin. The new coach will be playing a nine-game schedule that includes three non-county games in 2019. The Screaming Eagles will open with Watkins Mill, followed by games against Magruder, Walkersville in Frederick County, Poolesville, Damascus, South Hagerstown, Rockville, Whitman, and Pikesville.
The Eagles are coming off their worst season in the storied history of the school, posting a 2-8 record in 2018. Seneca’s football program has suffered as the school goes through its construction metaphasis. Turnout for the team was very low, as the prospect of a third season without a home game kept many players from wanting to grind it out last fall. The result was a season plagued by discipline issues, ugly losses, and a hazing scandal; it culminated in the firing of longtime Head Coach Fred Kim in December.
Sickeri said that he understands the challenges that he faces in the new position. He is the first outside hire in Seneca Valley football since the program was started in 1974 by legendary Coach Al Thomas. When Coach Thomas retired after winning his fifth State Championship in 1987, his assistant Coach Terry Changuris led the team to seven more titles before he retired in 2004. It was Changuris’ assistant coach and former player Coach Fred Kim who led the team for the next 13 seasons.
“I had the honor of meeting Coach Thomas my first year coaching at Northwest,” said Sickeri, “He was a great man, who did so much for the sport of football in the state. I look forward to honoring his legacy.”
As Seneca Valley emerges from the dust of the reconstruction project and a new school takes shape, the new coach and his team will face one more season on the road playing home games at Gaithersburg High School, until the new school and stadium opens in 2020.
“Sickeri comes highly recommended as a coach and teacher,” said Seneca Valley Athletic Director Jesse Irvin. “He is dedicated to his student-athletes and is great at developing relationships with all of his student-athletes and students. Coach Sickeri is a student of the game and his knowledge, and strategic thought is extremely effective and successful on the football field. Most importantly, Coach Sickeri is a leader who conducts himself with high moral and ethical integrity, earning the respect of everyone he meets.”
He was a four-year starter at Division II Clarion University of Pennsylvania, where he played running back and led the team in receptions one season. He moved to Maryland in 2005 where he began his coaching career at Fredrick High School, according to a school press release.
Photo courtesy of Seneca Valley High School, other photos by Germantown Pulse.