The world’s most accomplished athletes share one major attribute: short-term memory when it comes to major setbacks. While it’s important to remember and draw from the best times, erasing recent failures or losses from one’s mind is just as vital to achieving success—though it’s much easier said than done.
The Northwest High School football team took that concept to heart after its unexpectedly lopsided loss to crosstown rival Quince Orchard, 41-6, on Oct. 26. Though the defeat was an admitted knock to the Jaguars’ (7-2) confidence and morale, the hunt for a first state title since winning back-to-back championships in 2013-14 is far from over.
Sitting in first place after the most recent (as of Oct. 29) Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association Class 4A West Region standings were published following the eighth week of the season, Northwest is still primed for a top four finish, which would qualify the Jaguars for their seventh consecutive playoff appearance.
The first step, however, will be bouncing back from a disappointing Week 9 loss with a regular season-finale—and ultimately postseason clinching—win over Bethesda-Chevy Chase Friday (Nov. 2).
“Our coaches always remind us that during (those back-to-back) state championship years, it wasn’t always pretty, and that (this season) is not over,” senior quarterback Jack Anders said. “(The Quince Orchard) game didn’t come out the way we wanted it to, but we have to stay positive.”
Northwest suffered late-season losses en route to both of its most recent state title runs and in 2014 avenged a 52-28 Week 9 loss to Quince Orchard by defeating the Cougars three weeks later in the region final.
If the Jaguars are going to repeat that fate, they’re going to have to find their identity, Neubeiser said. With so much raw athleticism and versatility, Northwest boasts a multifaceted offense but has yet to identify exactly where its true strengths lie and doing so will be integral in extending its season.
“We do a little bit of everything and moving forward, we have to try and find something that we can hang our hat on,” Neubeiser said. “We need to figure out what we’re best at with the running game and the passing game and narrow the scope down a bit as to what we want to do. Maybe it’s a power running game; we can do that but is that our strongest suit? Or do we open things up and try to spread people out and use our running as a changeup and pass the ball more?”
Early mistakes coupled with the Jaguars’ struggle to match up with Quince Orchard’s offensive line on defense led to the Cougars’ quick three-score lead. Though Neubeiser said he was proud of the way his team continued to fight until the final whistle—senior running back Isaiah Bishop helped the Jaguars avoid the shutout with a 26-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter—Northwest found itself in too big an early deficit against a team of Quince Orchard’s caliber.
“For us, (the Quince Orchard) loss forced us to reevaluate everything we’ve been doing,” Neubeiser said. “But I told the kids, I’ve coached teams before where (we lost late in the season) and figured things out after that. We kept working and fighting and eventually got on a roll. You never know what’s going to happen, so we just have to keep making adjustments and reevaluating and trying to get things right.”