On the first day of the season, the Northwest boys’ soccer team had to travel to Kennedy and claw out a 3-2 overtime win. Northwest Coach Kert Mease would later say that the playing surface that warm September day was so rough that “I don’t even know if you could call it soccer, that game.”

Eight weeks later, Northwest will get its chance to host Kennedy Thursday in the first round of the Maryland 4A West playoffs, and with both teams facing elimination, excuses are unacceptable.

That is the type of sentiment Mease’s team has warmed up to this season, finishing 8-3-1 and winning a share of the Montgomery County 4A West division title. Winning respect in the county isn’t easy, not with Walter Johnson, Wootton and Whitman all once again piecing together dominant campaigns in 2012. Northwest isn’t looking for pity, though, but rather a chance to make a run at a state championship in the coming weeks, something Mease believes his team can do despite its quiet nature.

“I think we have been [overlooked]. The last three years, we’ve made it to at least the region semifinals, we’ve won the division three out of the last four years, and then had at least had eight wins in six of the last seven years,” Mease said. “We understand what we have accomplished. But our ultimate goal is a state championship, and we haven’t gotten one yet. That’s where we need to get.”

Northwest didn’t lose a game in league play and, at one point, won five straight games in county play before pushing sixth-ranked Walter Johnson to the brink before losing 1-0 in overtime. That was a turning point in the season for the Jaguars, who earned a 1-1 decision against co-division champion Quince Orchard (9-2-2) last week. Of Northwest’s 12 games, one has ended in a tie and five wins have been decided by one goal.

Gonzaga's Stephen Wulff (13) and DeMatha's Thomas Madden battle for the ball in a 1-1 tie in mid-September. The two teams tied with 8-0-1 WCAC records, but the Eagles will be the tournament’s top seed after winning a coin flip. (Doug Kapustin/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

Unlike the top-tier programs in the county, Northwest doesn’t have a legitimate go-to goal scorer, but the team has a scrappy offense that has produced as of late. Forward Ben Jacks has scored four goals in the past four games, and seniors Diego Flores and Curtis Wynne have combined for six scores on the year for a team that relishes winning close games.

Mease is the first to admit that his team has been inconsistent at times this season – but with all three of the club’s losses coming to teams in The Post Top 10 — Walter Johnson, No. 7 Wootton, No. 8 Watkins Mill — he reinforces those lapses with enough confidence to say, “I think we’re capable of winning the whole thing.”

The first step will come Thursday in a rematch against Kennedy (7-4-1), a team that has plenty of talent. Three players (Jean Bangweni, Kevin Guzman and Fitzroy Clair) have combined for 27 goals this season. Kennedy’s cornerstone win came earlier this month with a 4-1 rout over Whitman.

“They’re very dangerous,” Mease said. “We definitely understand that they’re a dangerous team, who some have called the best team that some don’t know about.”

The Post Top 10

Gonzaga and DeMatha both finished with 8-0-1 records in Washington Catholic Athletic Conference play, but the Eagles won a coin flip for the tournament's top seed. ... The Stags close their regular season with a nonleague contest against St. Albans on Friday. ... Marriotts Ridge beat Centennial, 1-0, last Thursday to claim the Howard County title. It was the third consecutive one-goal victory for the Mustangs.

(Records through Tuesday)

1. DeMatha (13-0-1) Last week: 1

2. Gonzaga (15-1-1) LW: 2

3. Marriotts Ridge (12-0) LW: 3

4. Severna Park (14-0) LW: 4

5. St. Albans (13-1-1) LW: 5

6. Walter Johnson (12-1) LW: 6

7. Wootton (12-1-1) LW: 9

8. Watkins Mill (10-2) LW: 10

9. Paul VI Catholic (10-4) LW: 7

10. Centennial (11-1-1) LW: 9