Northwestern is only 2-2. Its season opener was canceled. Its victories were by comparatively narrow margins against a pair of winless teams. Injuries and academic setbacks have prompted second-year coach Bryan Pierre to shuffle his starting lineup.

But when Pierre gathered his players for a postgame talk after their most recent victory, he compared this season to last, saying that the Wildcats were in position for another successful season and a playoff berth.

Having said that, Pierre was not satisfied after Northwestern's 22-6 victory over Laurel, saying there is plenty of room for improvement.

"One of the problems we've always had at Northwestern is playing at the level of our competition and not making the competition play at our level," said Pierre, who also served as an assistant at the school. "It's the difference between a team like Flowers scoring 40 points and shutting a team out, and us struggling with them.

"I want us to be a little more aggressive, a little more attacking. Our guys relax when we get a lead on teams. We don't put the hammer to the nail and drive it home."

Northwestern began the season with losses to Suitland and C.H. Flowers, the two remaining undefeated teams in the Prince George's 4A league. The Wildcats followed that with a 14-6 victory over Parkdale and the victory over a Laurel team that had been shut out in its previous four games. Larrone Moore played the entire Laurel game at quarterback, and Northwestern used sophomore LeTheo Proctor as a slotback. The two could change positions later in the season, Pierre said, giving the Wildcats some flexibility.

Defensively, linebacker Edgar Amaya continues to play well. He made 12 tackles, forced two fumbles and intercepted a pass against Laurel.

This week, Northwestern plays Bowie (3-2, 2-2), the Wildcats' first game against a team in the middle of the pack. They were in a similar situation last season and lost to the Bulldogs, 31-25, a game that stuck in Pierre's mind as he talked to his players.

"I told them except for not having the opener, we're in the same place as last year," Pierre said. "We let down last year. We let our guard down and were a little overconfident playing Bowie.

"I really don't want them to do that this year. I'm putting a lot of pressure on them this week."

One for the Ages

Joe Haden can chuck the ball downfield. He has passed for more than 300 yards. Still only a sophomore, Friendly's quarterback is 15 years old and does not have a driver's license.

And though his father usually attends football practice and drives Haden home, there are times when he needs to ask senior teammate Rodney Pittman for a lift. On a team that relies on several sophomores to fill key roles, it is just another instance of an older player helping out a younger teammate. Haden said Pittman does not needle him or give him a hard time.

"He asks me to pass him the ball," Haden said with a smile.

Although the beginning of the season was rocky, with older players still unsure of their younger teammates, Pittman said, things are looking up for Friendly. The Patriots (3-2) have won three consecutive games and seem prepared to make a run at a Maryland 2A South Region playoff berth.

Haden, sophomore wide receiver Vincent Hill and senior wide receiver Greg Penn form the nucleus of the Patriots' passing attack; Pittman leads the defense. After starting the season with losses to Potomac and Gwynn Park, the Patriots have bounced back, including a 34-8 victory over Crossland this past Saturday.

"It wasn't easy at the beginning, because when we played the tough teams it didn't seem like [the younger players] matched the intensity," Pittman said. "But in the long run, we're starting to gel. They're starting to mature more and more. We're in real good shape. If we win out, we want to see Potomac again."

Although Crossland failed in its bid to improve to 4-1, second-year coach Keith Howard can see his team progressing from the one that entered this season with a 19-game losing streak to one that he believes opponents must take seriously.

"I'm not satisfied with the outcome, but I think it's important for the program . . . that [the rivalry with Friendly] is relevant," Howard said. "We had to do our part to make the game relevant again. And we did, we won a couple games.

"When was the last time I looked up [playoff] points? Or the guy before me? Or the guy before him or the guy before him? Immediately after the game, I tried to find out what everyone else did."

A Different Look

Forestville showed a new look in its 39-0 victory over Central, giving Jermaine Lindsay a series at quarterback, something Coach Charles Harley said upcoming opponents can expect to see. "This week against DuVal, he'll probably get two to four series," Harley said.

Lindsay, a senior who has committed to Akron, completed 2 of 3 passes for 60 yards against Central. He also rushed two times for 45 yards and had touchdown catches of 15 and 20 yards.

"He had a pretty phenomenal outing," Harley said. "He's a tremendous athlete. It is going to be hard for teams to deal with him when we get the ball in his hands."

Dennis Anthony, a basketball player in his first season on the football team, will continue to be Forestville's starting quarterback, but Lindsay gives the Knights a different kind of threat, Harley said.

"Dennis is a good athlete and understands the game, but Jermaine is a step above most of the kids, and he's been around football his entire life," Harley said. "He just oozes with confidence. He's the best receiver, in my opinion, in Prince George's County and maybe the state."

Another Strong Start

Gwynn Park has reached the season's midpoint 5-0 for the fourth consecutive season. What remains to be seen is just how good the Yellow Jackets are. Their opponents are a combined 5-20, three remain winless and only one, Friendly, has a winning record. Gwynn Park has outscored opponents by a combined 207-19.

But don't tell Gwynn Park Coach Danny Hayes that his team has had an easy time of it, even if his team's closest victory was by 26 points.

"None of them are easy," Hayes said. "Any of them can come up and bite you."

The Yellow Jackets play Crossland (3-2) on Saturday, then have a potentially tough three-game stretch against Forestville, Calvert Hall and Douglass.

Senior wide receiver Greg Penn, with ball, combines with sophomore quarterback Joe Haden to lead Friendly's passing attack. Friendly's Jamison Hedgepath pressures the Crossland quarterback in the Patriots' 34-8 win. Friendly has won three in a row after starting 0-2.