Montgomery County Football: Week 4
Seneca Valley players weren’t sugarcoating their game last Friday against Damascus.
“They knew it was a must-win game,” Eagles Coach Fred Kim said.
It might have been a lot to ask of the Eagles, especially against a program that has been to 11 consecutive postseasons, a Maryland record. After starting the season with two consecutive losses for the first time in 30 years, Seneca seems to be back to familiar grounds. Last Friday’s 16-15 overtime victory against the Hornets not only brought the Eagles back into the hunt for their 19th playoff appearance since 1990, but also showed that they haven’t fallen off as far as some might have thought.
In a very tough Maryland 3A West Region -- which also includes Quince Orchard, Linganore, Damascus, Clarksburg and Tuscarora – the Eagles knew they could ill-afford to fall to 1-3 and keep alive hopes of playing an 11th game.
“We kept emphasizing that the season’s not over when we were 0-2,” Kim said, “that we weren’t blown out in those games, so we knew we weren’t far from being 4-0.”
Seneca’s biggest improvement the past two weeks has been on offense, after just managing 15 total points in losses to Clarksburg and Churchill. Leading that charge has been junior quarterback, and first-year starter, Max Nicholson. He completed 16 of 28 passes for 175 yards – all career-highs – against Damascus and threw the tying touchdown, a 27-yard toss to Trey Cunningham, in the fourth quarter.
The previous week, in a 26-0 victory over Einstein, Nicholson was 8 of 14 for 138 yards and two touchdowns.
“Max had an outstanding game,” Kim said. “He’s been pretty poised the past two weeks. He’s been staying strong, making better decisions, not holding onto the ball too long.”
While a traditional power like Seneca is on the road back, two programs that have not had much success completed a terrific opening month.
Rockville, which has shown signs of improvement over the past three years – including its second postseason appearance in 2007 – is 4-0, after a 21-8 victory last Saturday at Crossland.
The Rams entered the season with one of the county’s top running backs in junior Crusoe Gongbay, who rushed for more than 1,400 yards last year. What they didn’t know, however, was that Gongbay has a nice running mate in junior Nate Nolasco.
Gongbay missed Rockville’s 34-14 victory over Northwood on Sept. 17 with an ankle injury. The 5-foot-7, 145-pound Nolasco stepped in and rushed for 150 yards and a touchdown. Gongbay still wasn’t 100 percent by last week’s game against Crossland, so he and Nolasco shared the duties, each rushing for a score in the victory.
“They’re both very similar,” first-year Rockville Coach Kevin Bernot said. “Both have great vision. Nate is real shifty, while Crusoe is a little bit bigger.”
Meantime, the rest of the Rams are not surprised at all by their success thus far. Even this year’s seniors were freshmen when Rockville stunned many by going 7-3 in 2006, its first winning season in nine years, and just its second since 1993. They don’t know anything about the two- and three-victory seasons.
“These kids know they can win and hang with anyone,” Bernot said. “They don’t know anything about that stigma that a lot of people in Montgomery County have about Rockville.”
Einstein, meantime, might be the biggest surprise at 3-1. While the Titans have made strides toward respectability since Mike Bonavia took over the program in 2006 (winning just five games from 2000 to ’05), they appeared to have peaked last year when they went 5-5 and then watched Malcolm Crockett, the county’s leading rusher last season, transfer to Friendship Collegiate.
But the Titans didn’t lament the loss of their best player. Instead, they thrust sophomore Keith Gaye into the backfield and he’s responded by rushing for 534 yards and six touchdowns, including 174 yards and two scores in last Friday’s 29-0 victory over Poolesville.
While Einstein is not in any position to be counting possible victories ahead, the Titans schedule is not particularly difficult, aside from this week’s game against Clarksburg, and an Oct. 16 visit to Quince Orchard. Their four remaining games are against Northwood, Blake, Watkins Mill and Wheaton -- all programs that, like Einstein, have struggled in recent years.
September 28, 2009; 10:00 AM ET
Categories: Einstein , Football , Rockvile , Seneca Valley
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