Seneca Valley-Northwest battle annually for Germantown bragging rights

Living on Allspice Drive in Germantown, Austen Herbert grew up on Northwest High School football, wearing black and silver to games at “the Black Hole.” His favorite player — his older brother C.J. — helped the fledgling Jaguars to the Maryland 3A title as a senior in 2004, and Herbert stood in awe on the field at M&T Bank Stadium as the team hoisted the championship trophy.

But when his family moved across town to Partridge Wood Drive, about two miles away, Austen, then in middle school, had an adjustment to make. If he wanted to play for his new neighborhood’s school, he’d have to cross enemy lines in the battle for Germantown bragging rights.

“It was maybe not an upsetting change, but definitely a little disappointing at first,” Austen, now a junior linebacker at Seneca Valley, said. “Ever since I was, like, 9 years old, I’d envisioned myself playing at Northwest and following in my brother’s footsteps. . . . But it didn’t take too long for me to transform into a Seneca Valley Screaming Eagle.”

Few rivalries in the state can match the backyard feel of Seneca Valley-Northwest. Since Northwest opened in 1998 less than three miles away from Seneca Valley, the annual matchup has become a must-attend event for residents, as well as a hot topic of conversation in neighborhood shops and on social media in the weeks leading up.

The teams have battled for a traveling King’s Trophy — conferring official status as the ruler of Germantown for the year — since 2001. Northwest won three of the first five meetings, but Seneca Valley now holds a 9-4 lead in the all-time series after winning the past five years.

Last season’s matchup was pushed back a day because of rain to a Saturday afternoon in early September, but a standing-room-only crowd still packed Northwest’s stadium to see Seneca Valley’s 16-8 victory. Screaming Eagles Coach Fred Kim strategically stores the King’s Trophy in a glass case that the team passes every day on its way to the practice field.

“It’s kind of a big deal to bring [the trophy] back to our school and get bragging rights for the entire year,” said Northwest senior quarterback Matty Callahan, who is entering his fourth season as the team’s starter and still looking for his first win against Seneca Valley. “I imagine if we got it back, we’d want it to go somewhere special.”

Like most longtime Germantown families, the Herberts had a history at Seneca Valley well before C.J. became a Jaguar. His mother, Kimberly, attended the school, and cousin Durique Taylor was an all-state wide receiver for the Eagles in 1997.

Most of the black and silver gear in the Herbert home now sits in storage, but C.J. Herbert is just happy that his little brother gets to be a part of the rivalry that means so much in his home town.

“When the schedule first came out, you circled that date on the calendar, and every day you worked knowing that they were right down Great Seneca Highway working just as hard,” said C.J. Herbert, who went on to play at William and Mary and now attends law school at Michigan State. “There’d be six [thousand] to 8,000 people there to enjoy the battle. Those nights were the heights of my high school career.”

Seneca Valley hosts Northwest at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 7.

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