By any measure, 2010 was a difficult year for the Northwest football program. The Jaguars' 1-9 finish was the worst record in the school's 13-year history. A 16-6 win over Magruder in the season finale provided the lone bright spot for the Germantown school. But it wasn't enough for then-head coach Bob Hampton to keep his job.
Less than three weeks after the season ended, and the Jaguars were forced to find their fourth head coach in as many years.
But Mike Neubeiser isn't going to let any of that stand in his way. The first-year head coach is putting all of that in the past, and is focused on restoring the glory to the team that was once considered among the county's best and the team that won the Maryland 3A state title in 2004.
Neubeiser is confident he is the right man for the job. And he's not shy about voicing his expectations for the year ahead.
"My goal is to get to the playoffs," he said. "I think we're capable of that. It's not going to be easy and it's going to take a lot of work, but I think we have the talent and the capability to make it happen."
Northwest has only had one winning season since Randy Trivers stepped down as head coach following the 12-1 2006 season. And the three head coaches who succeeded Trivers have gone just 15-26 in the four seasons since Trivers' departure. But Neubeiser is looking to bring the swagger back to Northwest football and said his biggest focus area since has been making sure his players are physically ready to compete.
"The biggest thing we've been working on is instilling toughness into the kids," Neubeiser said. "I think that's been missing the last few years from the program. Everything we've been working on from conditioning to strength-training to now has been about getting the kids physically prepared for the season."
Tyler Ambush and Josh McDonald, both of whom play wide receiver and defensive back, along with defensive ends Nate Hartman and George Littleton are among the players Neubeiser is expecting to lead the effort this season. Additionally, he is looking at returning quarterback Matt Callahan to continue to be the team's leader.
"He's a stud," Neubeiser. "He's done a lot of good things for us and in fact, we just named him a team captain for 2011. Which says a lot because he's only a junior. He does such a great job as a leader that we wanted to give him that captain's title."
While it's his first year as head coach, Neubeiser is by no means a stranger to Northwest and he has a long history with Montgomery County football. In high school, he played under John Harvill at Gaithersburg where he was named to the Washington Post's All-Met team in 1989.
After playing at Wake Forest, he returned to Gaithersburg and spent three seasons as an assistant for Harvill before becoming an inaugural member of Trivers' staff at Northwest in 1998. He also held the role of defensive coordinator at Quince Orchard, where he helped the Cougars win the 2007 state championship.
Neubeiser said that he has taken something from all of these experiences and he has learned a tremendous amount about the game of football that has helped prepare him for this challenge.
Now, Neubeiser is less than three weeks away from realizing his dream of head coaching his first game, which will come on Sept. 2 against Blake, which for now, remains the only game he's focused on.
"We're not looking past those guys," Neubeiser said. "They have a lot of talent and we're not focusing on anything beyond that."