For the first time in four years, Prince George’s County saw a deviation to its 4A South Region football playoff teams.
Thanks to DuVal recording one of the best four records and Northwestern coming extremely close to edging Eleanor Roosevelt for the fourth seed, the county’s landscape was at least somewhat altered from the traditional postseason quartet Henry A. Wise, Suitland, Charles H. Flowers and Roosevelt.
Of course this season, as usual, there’s Wise followed by everybody else. But that everybody else took a significant step forward from previous years. There was more parity than previous seasons with Roosevelt finishing 7-4, Northwestern at 7-3 and Flowers (6-4) missing the playoffs after winning last season’s 4A South Region title. Bowie and Bladensburg both finished with four wins apiece. Heck, even High Point and Oxon Hill both won two games this season.
“We’ve been trying to bust through that mediocre stage of 6-4 and last year going 7-3,” said DuVal coach Dameon Powell, whose team lost to Suitland in the first round of the playoffs to finish 9-2. “The ‘No E rule’ really made a big impact on the league and how the kids are coming out and playing football. From my standpoint, I wanted to try to get as many kids in the school to participate in football as possible.”
Northwestern would have made the playoffs as well had it not been for two forfeits because they used an ineligible player. Still, two programs that were knocking on the door last season — DuVal and Northwestern — now feel more confident that they can hang with the big boys in the league.
“The one thing I would say is that I’m happy about that,” Northwestern coach Bryan Pierre said of the increasing balance. “I’ve been coaching in this county for a long time. There have been some schools that have been up in the past. It’s getting better mixed with good football and I want to see good football.”
Bowie is a prime example of a team that is on the verge of being very competitive and still had a solid 2012. Under coach Jae Jackson, the Bulldogs lost by one to Roosevelt, eight to DuVal and six to Northwestern. With those three games turned to wins, Bowie also would have been 7-3 and right in the mix for the bonus points tiebreaker that gave the Raiders the postseason edge over the Wildcats.
“I think it’s just showing that the league as a whole is starting to get better,” Jackson said. “Starting to be more even across the board. Competition is good for Prince George’s County. I hope it continues and we get a little bit of different blood in the mix.”
Jackson, who has been coaching in the county since 1993, said he remembers when schools like Parkdale and Crossland were powerhouses. So clearly, things can change.
“I would like for a lot of different teams to just compete and get into the playoffs,” Jackson said. “Teams in the bottom, I would like to see them get better and compete. I think it’s going to take a little time, though.”
Pierre pointed to one recent trend that might be aiding the slowly increasing balance among some 4A teams.
“I long for the day to go back to where we’re all fighting it out,” he said. “One of the things that’s helping is that more kids are choosing to stay at their home schools. Like the Paul Harrises of the world or Roman Williams at Flowers [both formerly from DeMatha]. It made Flowers a little bit more competitive this year. If more students decide to stay at their home school, you’ll see more competition throughout the league.”
Schools, of course, will be subject to the cyclical nature of high school sports, but it appears as though the next few years in Prince George’s County could be a bit more competitive.
“I think there’s more parity in the league,” Powell said. “But you’ve got to have the right coach in the building. He’s got to know what he’s doing.”