For the Northwest football team, the loss of several key players should not signal the demise of one of the most proficient offenses Montgomery County -- and the state, for that matter -- has yet seen.

Sure, nine starters on each side of the ball graduated from last year's Maryland 3A championship team. But if there's anything Northwest has proved since Coach Randy Trivers took over the team during its inaugural season in 1998, it's that a truly successful program doesn't start and stop its progress at the mercy of graduation.

"Our goal has always been to become one of the premier programs in the state," Trivers said. "To do that, you have to refocus and reset your goals. You can't live on the year before. . . . We want to use the past to help us, but we don't want to rely on it."

Since a 2-8 season in 1998, the Jaguars have withstood the cyclical effect of graduation that confronts every program and have gone 54-13 because of consistency among the coaches and the players' belief in the system.

Of course, there are bound to be questions when the Jaguars open their season tomorrow evening at Churchill at 6:30. And perhaps the one that pecked away most at Trivers throughout the offseason was how he would replace quarterback Ike Whitaker (now at Virginia Tech). The answer, as it turns out, wasn't that simple. You don't just replace 2,586 passing yards and 28 touchdowns overnight.

Instead, the Jaguars will turn to two quarterbacks -- senior Dexter Korto and junior Josh Volpe -- with the hope of filling the void on an offense that averaged 38 points per game during last year's 12-1 season.

Understudies to Whitaker last season, both players are well versed in Trivers's multi-pronged attack, which features a slew of offensive sets and personnel packages designed to keep opposing teams off balance.

"In our offense, Josh and I have grasped it really quickly," Korto said. "Ike taught us both a lot, and that's a good thing, because we can go out there, not have to think too much and use our athletic abilities."

While last year's wide receiver trio of Salim Koroma, Alphonzo Griffin and Darren Brownlee presented a near-impossible matchup for opposing secondaries, this year's corps provides a little bit of everything to throw at opponents -- size, speed, grit -- which suits the Northwest philosophy perfectly.

The new guard comprises Maryland-bound senior Brandon Jackson-Mills, senior Abu Morlai and 6-foot-5, 205 pound target Marcus Ruffin; while Chuck Burton -- the team's featured tailback -- will split time between the backfield and lining up wide.

"In our offense, we're going to hit you with a number of different looks, and we're going to try and get the ball to a number of different players in different ways," Trivers said. "So you won't be able to come in and say, 'Hey, we can stop this guy and their offense is done.' "

One other noteworthy change for the Jaguars is their rise to class 4A this season -- though the move isn't expected to be much of a roadblock. The Jaguars played a number of games against top 4A teams last season, including a 27-24 victory over state finalist Damascus.

"We're looking forward to it," said senior offensive lineman Fred Lamberth. "There's some good teams [in 4A], and there are going to be some pretty good games against them. We've got to prove ourselves at every level. We have to prove ourselves again, because no one thinks we can have it."