Norwin ready for big challenge against Gateway
The Norwin football team got a taste of playing against Division I-caliber athletes in last week's 24-7 loss to Kiski Area.
The task will get even more difficult Friday night, however, when the Knights (1-5, 1-5 Quad East) host Gateway, the Tribune-Review's third-ranked team in Class AAAA, at 7:30 p.m.
Gateway (6-0, 5-0), coming off a nonconference victory over three-time defending WPIAL champion North Allegheny, boasts five Division I recruits in Anthony Davis, Montae Nicholson, Delvon Randall, Ricky Rogers and Brenon Thrift. Davis, Randall and Thrift verbally committed to Temple, Rogers committed to West Virginia and Nicholson has dozens of offers.
While Norwin's players acknowledge Friday's game will be a challenge, it's one they're embracing.
“We obviously want to try to compete with the best,” senior Zack Tinsley said. “This week, we're going to try our best. We're going to work hard this week to go up against their (Division I) talent and the rest of their team and hopefully come out with a win.”
Gateway will particularly challenge Norwin through the air as Gators quarterback Jimmy Moore has passed for 1,251 yards and 13 touchdowns this season — mostly to the Division I recruits.
“You've just got to do your job every single play (and) don't mess up on anything,” senior Billy Zatezalo said. “(You've got to) keep them in front of you and don't let anyone behind you. We've got to tackle better this week because we did not tackle well this past week against Kiski. If we do that, then they'll run it up.”
After a slow start to the season, the Norwin offense is beginning to move the ball in recent weeks. Quarterback Nick Amendola threw for 158 yards against Kiski, a week after totaling 211 in a loss against Connellsville. Kiski sacked Amendola five times, however, to help limit the Knights to seven points.
“We have to protect (Amendola) and do a better job of doing that,” Norwin coach Art Tragesser said. “We'll go to the drawing boards and try to figure something out.”
Since Norwin and Gateway joined the same conference in 2008, the Gators have won all five meetings by a combined 299-35 score. That includes a 62-14 victory last year and an 85-0 triumph in 2011.
Norwin's current players remember those games.
“It's great inspiration from the past two years,” Zatezalo said. “After losing our sophomore year by a lot and then after last year, you've really got no respect for these people and you've got to go out, give your all and be able to play them.”
While last week's loss officially eliminated the Knights from playoff contention, Zatezalo said the team still will be focused entering the final third of the season.
“We've still got three games left,” Zatezalo said. “We've got to finish out strong.”