Norwin sophomore QB strives to avoid repeating past
Norwin sophomore quarterback Nick Amendola, who became the starter as a freshman, laughed while two groundhogs chased each other on the Knights' practice facility Monday.
Then, he was reminded those two groundhogs represent the number of wins Norwin has produced during the past two seasons.
He turned serious.
“I really think that can change,” he said. “You know, we've got good players here and we're working hard. We believe in ourselves, that we can turn this around. We do feel confident.”
Consider his coach a believer.
Injuries forced Amendola into the lineup last season. Such a stage for a ninth-grader rarely produces any positives, but Amendola was far more advanced than anyone had realized.
Norwin coach Art Tragesser was surprised by the precocious freshman.
He's even more impressed with the 10th-grade version of Amendola.
“I often have to remind myself that he is only a sophomore,” Tragesser said. “A lot of times, you find yourself not necessarily expecting much from kids his age. But he's been different. Some kids his age wouldn't even be a starter for another year, but he's more than capable. He's a good one. He was thrown into the fire last season and he did such of a nice job for us.”
Amendola accounted for more than 700 yards last season in limited action, showing signs of becoming a dual threat. He rushed for more than 300 yards and four touchdowns.
He has a better grasp on Norwin's offense this season — “Much better, actually,” he said — and has enjoyed a benefit of being so young.
“He's actually gotten a little bigger this year,” Tragesser said. “That's one thing we've really noticed, and of course he has a better feel for the offense than he did a year ago. He's really looking very good.”
Tragesser, in his third season at Norwin, is one of the WPIAL's most respected coaches.
But he isn't the least bit pleased with a 2-16 record during his first two seasons leading the Knights.
“You're never satisfied in this game,” he said. “Right now I feel like there are so many things that we want to get done and there isn't any time.”
Tragesser believes there is enough talent in Norwin to make the past two seasons nothing but a memory. He shakes his head when thinking of the winless 2011 season and the 2-7 campaign in 2012.
“We haven't made progress yet,” he said. “We've only won two games. I'm just trying to instill in these kids that it's time to raise their expectations and their level of play. Everyone has to do that.”
Amendola will be the focal point. He has legitimate targets in Logan Deri and Kyle Baum.
The quarterback also plans on running plenty in Tragesser's offense.
“I love to run,” Amendola said. “I think it's going to be a big part of my game this year.”
Even though Norwin plays in a conference with Class AAAA heavyweights such as McKeesport and Gateway, Tragesser remains confident.
And he made it clear his quarterback is a big reason for that belief.
“He's a good young player, and we really do have some talent here to do something,” Tragesser said. “We want to make the playoffs this year, and we want to get to the point where making the playoffs becomes a consistent thing.”