Nobody would crack.
Despite a fair amount of leading questions, the players on Northwestern High School’s football team just would not look ahead following Friday’s 28-10 victory against DuVal. They would not engage in speculation about whether or not this finally is the year a team not named Charles H. Flowers, Eleanor Roosevelt, Suitland or Henry A. Wise makes the 4A South Region playoffs.
Nope, they all stuck to the tired, old, boring cliché. All things considered, that probably is bad news for their upcoming opponent: Oxon Hill.
“I’m looking at one game at a time,” said Wildcats quarterback Jovante Seard. “Next week it’s Oxon Hill. That’s all we’ve got to work on is one game at a time and then, it’s however the chips fall.”
“Coach has been telling us every day, one game at a time,” added running back Darius Victor, though he added a bit more personality at the end. “Every day, one game at a time. I believe in these guys. We have the talent.”
“Oxon Hill, Oxon Hill, Oxon Hill,” Wildcats coach Bryan Pierre said emphatically. “One at a time. If we do our job one game at a time, the rest is going to come.”
But the reality is this: With last Friday’s victory against the Tigers — a team Northwestern hadn’t beaten in its last five attempts — the Wildcats are 2-0 and have only three teams remaining on their schedule who they lost to last season: Flowers, Wise and Bowie.
Last year, the Jaguars came from behind to beat the Wildcats, 14-13, in a thriller. Wise handled them, 27-0, and Bowie captured a 28-21 victory in the season’s final week, dropping Northwestern’s record to 6-4. Because of the two-year schedule rotation, the Wildcats won’t have to face Suitland or Roosevelt for the second year in a row. The six remaining non-playoff teams from last year on Northwestern’s schedule combined for 14 victories in 2011. Suitland and Roosevelt combined for 20.
If any season is going to be “the one,” this is it — especially with Victor at the heart of the Wildcats’ attack.
The bruising tailback rushed for 138 yards and three touchdowns against DuVal, has found the end zone six times already this year and, as Pierre said, is never tackled in practice because his teammates don’t want to challenge him.
In preseason training camp last year, the team was struggling with numbers. Players would skip practices and John Johnson III remembers personally making calls to his teammates, pleading with them to come to the field and work. This year, although numbers still are an issue, the mentality is much better.
“I think this is a new Northwestern. This is a new team,” Seard said. “Can’t stop, won’t stop.”
In addition to playing Friday’s game and one more (Sept. 21 against Flowers) under the lights at Hyattsville’s Heurich Turf Field, the Wildcats also are sporting new uniforms and helmets this season. Against DuVal, they wore baby blue tops over baby blue pants and flat black helmets. The uniforms were purchased with money the players helped to raise.
“The excitement of playing under the lights on Friday night, the new uniforms, all of this stuff just makes it look and feel like it’s going to be a really good season,” Pierre said. “We’re excited.”