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After 1st playoff appearance in 8 years, Northgate hoping to continue growth

| Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, 6:46 p.m.
Christopher Horner
Northgate receiver Justin Parra. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Christopher Horner
Northgate quarterback Cody Walter. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

Coach T.J. Wiley started his tenure at Northgate High School with a splash last year.

Despite being appointed as coach less than two months before the official practice season got under way, the Flames went 5-5 and made the WPIAL playoffs for the first time in eight seasons.

“I stayed back from vacation so I could be interviewed on a Friday in June,” Wiley said. “I left to catch up with the rest of the family in North Carolina and was notified two hours later that I got the job.”

Wiley really didn't get started until the last week of June but quickly made up for lost time.

The new coach was faced with turning around a program that had endured seven straight losing seasons.

“We knew when we came in the team hadn't experienced much success,” Wiley said. “The kids and I pretty much had to trust each other. We wanted to give the community a winner — and they jumped on the bandwagon.”

Spearheading the Northgate revival was the combination of quarterback John Girvin, the WPIAL's No. 6 passer, and the WPIAL's No. 3 receiver, Jake Abernethy. Both graduated.

In the running to replace Girvin is Cody Walter, a running back who gained 352 yards rushing last season, and sophomore Johnny Camello, who relieved Girvin in the season's opener and led the Flames to a victory over Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.

Mark Lodge and Shakil Knight have emerged as the primary receivers to take over for Abernethy, and freshman George Floyd is pushing for playing time.

“We have eight starters back,” Wiley said. “Seniors don't start automatically.”

There is no doubt who will be the Northgate leader on defense. Linebacker Mackenzie Quinn had 127 tackles in 10 games and was named all-state honorable mention by Pennsylvania Football News.

Also returning for the Flames will be two-way linemen Tim Driscoll, Khalil Condon and Josh Anthony in addition to two-way player Justin Parra.

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