Will Seneca Valley lose another football game? That is the question high school football followers are asking as the metropolitan area prepares to kick off another season Friday.
The screaming Eagles have reeled off 26 consecutive victories over a three-year period. They won the final two games of the '75 season, then went undefeated in winning Maryland State titles the next two seasons. Last year, Seneca Valley outscored its 12 opponents, 288-6, the lone touchdown coming on a fumble runback.
Coach Al Thomas said his young team won't surprise anyone this season but "won't be any patsies, either."
When asked if he thought his team had a chance to equal or break the area record of 34 straight victories set by Richard Montgomery from 1966-69, Thomas paused a second and then said, "Oh, we won't make that."
This was the same Thomas who, after his team won the State Class B title in '76 and was moved up to Class A status the next year, said he would be in for a long season.
"After last year, I'm hesitant to say anything. We're still excited over the '77 team," said Thomas. "We only have six returning lettermen and we don't even talk about the streak. Our JV was only 44 but we've got some good juniors coming up. We're looking forward to the season, though. all of the position are open and we'll do a lot of experimenting."
Some area teams perhaps share Thomas' opinion of the '78 Eagles. At least two perennial tough teams -- St. John's and Theodore Roosevelt --called to schedule games. Unfortunately, the Montgomery County schools are locked into their schedules and very rarely have open dates for outside schools.
"I would like to have a little more freedom to play other teams," said Thomas. "but there are 11 teams in Class A alone. We don't even get the chance to play everyone. We have to play some Class AA schools just so they will have enough games."
Elsewhere around the area, there aren't any major surprises or happenings. The '78 season is off to a mild start compared to last season, which saw a girl try out for a team and a plays, boycott protesting the firing of a coach.
As usual, a number of schools will have new head coaches. Prince George's County has the biggest turnover, with eight new coaches. Parkdale, which won five Class AA crowns under former coach Tom Rae, will be under the auspices of Dave Jaskulsky, the fourth coach since Rae departed for Hershey, Pa.
Theodore Roosevelt, expected to win its fourth Interhigh West Division title in the last five years, will be forced to play all of its games on the road. Its field is under renovation and is not expected to be ready until September of 1979. However, the new Dunbar facility is ready for use, so the league should not be ward pressed for fields.
Despite its weekly bus rides all over the city, Roosevelt should beat out Coolidge, Dunbar and Wilson for the West title. Coach Tim tillerson, whose team seemed to burn out in losing to Eastern, 13-0, in the Interhigh Championship game last year, may be taking a different approach this season.
"I'm not going to work the kids as hard in the beginninng," [word Illegible] Roosevelt coach. "We'll have plenty of time to get ready."
Eastern rebounded from an 0-4 start and, aided by a forfeit win, won the East Division title and went on to shock roosevelt, a team it had lost to earlier in the season, 22-0. Eastern will have trouble repeating this year. H.D. Woodson has size, depth and talent and is looking to improve on its '77 mark of 6-2-2.
Regardless of what the pessimistic Thomas is predicting, Seneca Valley looks to be heads and shoulders over most of the competition in Class A. The only schools given a chance to unseat the defensive-minded Screaming Eagles are gaithersburg and wootton
Churchill has won the Class AA division four straight years. The Bulldogs have also captured back-to-back state titles. Unless Springbrook, coming off its finest season (9-1) in years, or Northwood pulls off a major surprise or two, look for Churchill to return to the playoffs.
Kennedy was the forgotten school in the county. With Seneca Valley fighting Churchill for all the attention, Kennedy and the Class B title race was a well-kept secret. It wasn't until the Cavaliers upset fort Hill, 8-7, in the state semifinals that anyone realized Kennedy had a chance to win its first state crown in the school's history. It did, besting Cambridge, 13-0. Kennedy again? Why not?
The Class AA race in Prince George's County should be a wideopen affair. Defending titlist Crossland, Potomac, Suitland and high Point are expected to wage a dogfight for the honors, but don't count out DuVal, Bowie or Parkdale. It is that tight.In the Class A sector, who can beat Friendly?
The Metro Conference title may be interesting. Carroll upset St. John's, 7-3, to win the title last year. But St. John's has enough returning talent and a burning desire to regain the title it owned three straight seasons.
In Virginia, Northern Region champion Robinson has to beat T.C. Williams. The winner of that game may be the region representative. Madison [word illigible] like solid choice to repeat as Great Falls champion, Mount Vernon should handle the competition in the Gunston while Falls Church must beat back Potomac District challengers Annandale, Jefferson and W.T. Woodson.
Gar-Field, the surprise finalist in the state playoffs, figures to battle rival Woodbridge for the Commonwealth District crown.
Landon and St. Stephen's tied for the Interstate Athletic Conference crown last year and, barring unforeseen miracles, will fight it out again.
Wilde Lake looks to be the strongest team in Howard County, Meade and Andover may be the powers in Anne Arundel County and it is strictly anyone's guess in the southern Maryland Athletic Conference.
Georgetown Prep is still the strongest team among area independent schools.