Northwest Ready to Defend Their Titleby MoCoFootball Staff on 09/03/14
Northwest senior LB Brendan Thompson (8). Photo: Robert McGuire
Northwest Ready to Defend Their Title
The cliché "everything was so different last year," is often used in everyday conversation, but most of the time, not much has really changed. Yet, there is no better way to describe the Northwest Jaguars football team than that cliché, because entering the 2013 season; nothing was expected of the Jaguars.
Prior to the 2013 season, the Jaguars had lost 34 seniors, and were not expected to be more than a team who squeaked into the playoffs. The rest is history. The Jaguars put on a remarkable run to end the season with six straight wins, beat rival Quince Orchard twice on the road, and finished their quest with the second state championship in school history.
If Northwest had snuck up on anybody last year, they certainly will not this year. Ranked number one in the county by MoCo Football and number three in the DC-metropolitan area by the Washington Post, everybody Jaguar opponent has circled the Northwest game circled on their schedules.
But if you went to a Jaguars' practice this August, you'd realize their rankings mean nothing to them, and last year is ancient history.
"We don't talk about where we're ranked or winning it all last year," said head coach Michael Neubeiser. "That stuff doesn't matter. What matters is getting better. We are focused on improving every day and playing as a team and eliminating mental mistakes. If we can play good, sound, fundamental football we'll end up in a good place at the end of the year."
"I expect more from this year than last year," said junior and returning quarterback Mark Pierce.
Pierce, who was already one of the best quarterbacks in the state last year as a sophomore, now has a whole year under his belt as the starting quarterback. Pierce now has the full trust of the coaching staff and his teammates, and is expected to be the leader of the offense and build off of what he did last season.
Just like any program, Northwest will be losing a lot of starters on both sides of the ball this year, including receivers Josh Gills and Matthew Watson, along with linebackers Samer Manna and Rasheed Gillis, all vital to last years State Championship.
"Josh Gills and Matthew Watson will be difficult for us to replace," said Neubeiser. "They were both very dynamic last year."
Even with those two gone, the Jaguars have a plan to stay as fiery of an offense as last year.
"We have 4 or 5 players that hope to fill [Gills' and Watson's] roles this year," said Neubeiser. "Aaron Beidleman and Brandon Williams have both matured as receivers and Troy Lefeged and Jamar Wilson are pretty explosive as well."
All four of those players were key contributors to the team last year, especially Lefeged, who started at safety last season and will be one of the Jaguars few both way players this year.
On defense, the biggest burden they will have to face is the loss of Manna and Gillis at linebacker. Luckily, the Jaguars have two leaders, and returning starters, coming back to the linebacker core, Brendan Thompson and Chuk Anya. Caleb Gills, a defensive end last season, will be shifting back to the linebacker this season.
"We will need Chuk Anya, Caleb Gills and Brandon Williams to bring pressure off of the edge and Brendan Thompson and Jordan Fairfax to be a force in the middle," said Neubeiser.
Brandon Williams and Jordan Fairfax will be the other two players contributing heavily to the linebacker core.
One thing that the Jaguars will miss most from their graduated seniors is their leadership.
"In any situation, the people who have been there to experience leadership have to step up," said Thompson.
Thompson, the second leading tackler last year, is the engine to the Jaguar defense, and is poised to lead them back to where they finished last season.
"With losing experience with Samer and Rasheed, Brendan [Thompson] and I really have to step up," said Anya.
The Jaguars enhanced their secondary when Kwabena Asamoah transferred from Watkins Mill to Northwest for his senior season. Asamoah is expected to be a shutdown corner for the Jaguars. Aleck Rosemond is also new to Northwest, a transfer student from Florida, who is a force to be reckoned with on the defensive line.
Even with all the players that have left, the Jaguars have the coaching, talent, and heart to return to M&T Bank Stadium in early December this year.
By: Ethan Cadeaux