Northwest High State Champs (Photos)
A Great Seneca Football Champ Mojo Reigns
I don’t know what the pre-season odds for the Northwest High School Jaguars were for them to evolve as State 4A Football Champions – but after covering three title match ups including the 4A Final in Baltimore on Friday evening – it was one powerhouse confirmation that their brand of Great Seneca football reigns supreme.
Congratulations to Coach Michael Neubeiser and his varsity team at Northwest and to all their faithful fans – who believed long before everyone else in MoCo that this would be a special season.
Reflecting back on this season something happened between October 25th and November 1st to both Northwest and Quince Orchard – that set the stage for NW’s championship run of 6 wins beginning with the first of two title matches against QO – in what I call the Battle for Great Seneca. [Think of it akin to the Civil War’s 1st and 2nd Battle of Bull Run in Manassas VA – the favorite never had a chance]
On October 25th undefeated and Metro area Top 10 ranked QO had just played a perfect game to defeat cross-town rival Gaithersburg while NW lost for the second time this season against up and coming Clarksburg – by a score of 14-13. To me that practice week in between their November 1st match set up the turning point.
In their 1st Battle of Great Seneca NW came out on home team QO’s first play from scrimmage – and I believe it was NW’s #3 Samer Manna – middle linebacker (I could be wrong) came through the line untouched and smacked QO’s quarterback Mike Murtaugh dumping him with a 10 yard sack. It appears that was the moment the tide turned – Mr. Mojo climbed on NW’s shoulders and never left – and the evening’s overflow crowd hadn’t even taking their SRO (standing room only) positions. This game ended with NW “upsetting” #2 ranked QO 35-21 on their Senior Night.
Fast forward to November 22nd in the 2nd Battle of Great Seneca – NW and QO would face-off again at the QO Cougar Dome in the 4A West Region Title game. Speaking of SRO – even the cheap seats up on Route 28 looking down on the Dome were packed shoulder to shoulder.
In what I call the “deja vu – how do you like me now” moment the same thing happened again. On QO’s first play from scrimmage NW’s linebacker Rasheed Gillis runs untouched through the line and smacks QO’s halfback Kevin Joppy knocking the ball loose. Though QO recovered the ball for a loss – they never recaptured Mr. Mojo. NW wins 4A West Division title handing QO a 28-20 season ending defeat.
I skipped the 4A State semi-finals matchup between Paint Branch and NW. I just had this feeling that Mr. Mojo wasn’t leaving the Germantown sideline that night – plus I don’t know how much more reporting our hyper-local news community in the 20878 could take on NW.
This all brings us to Friday night – December 6th to a rain soaked venue at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore – title match #3 – the upstart NW against PG County’s powerhouse and higher ranked Suitland High.
Mr. Mojo came to the field in Baltimore with NW in the persona of cornerback #2 Rodney Snider. NW’s sophomore quarterback Mark Pierce had a mini-me Mr. Mojo too. But on the field Snider perfectly defended any attempt made by Suitland to pass in his vicinity turning Suitland into a one-dimensional running team.
Give Coach Neubeiser’s defense the credit – they shutdown all of Suitland’s runners – and only QB Wesley Wolkfolk had any success alluding NW’s defensive front.
NW players raised the championship trophy sometime around 10:47PM to a happy and wet faithful crowd having crushed Suitland 33-16 in Great Seneca football style.
Of course none of this happens without talented coaches, a support network of students, fans, boosters and school based administrators. Perhaps the biggest fan is Principal Lance Dempsey who was seen at all games I covered cheering on players and cajoling those in the stands from her perch standing on the players’ bench.
Coach Mike Neubeiser, a Wake Forest grad and former player, came to NW as a PE teacher, worked with then head coach Randy Trivers before taking a position as a defensive coach at Quince Orchard. There he worked with Coach Dave Mencarini and formed many signature defensive units eventually leading QO to it’s second state football championship in 2007. It is from this relationship that we now have a Great Seneca Rivalry.
Friday night, Neubeiser in his second year as head coach at NW celebrated once more the joy of winning in Baltimore. It was NW who was last standing – in a spot that many in MoCo and the state thought would go to their rival further down that Great Seneca (Valley) Highway on Route 28 – where the turnaround six games earlier began.
Retrospective: This was my 5th trip to Baltimore to cover a 4A final from field level. It was an ugly wet, cold miserable night for photographers. At games end the best tool in your possession wasn’t a Nikon – it was a dry towel to wipe the rain from your lens. I had one.
So here are photos of those fleeting “reign” moments that only a few high school players and their coaches ever get to experience.
More photos can be found at http://towncourier-photos.smugmug.com/Other/4A-Football-Championship.