Norwin football looks to restore pride
When David Brozeski took over as Norwin's football coach in April, he established a set of five “core principles”: discipline, communication, trust, perseverence and pride.
The fifth principle especially sticks out for a program that comes into the 2014 season with four victories over the past three years.
“You have to have pride in anything you do: pride in your family, pride in your schoolwork,” Brozeski said. “That sense of pride is what we're rallying behind. We have a saying here that we're all we've got, and that's what we're trying to do: trying to ride together and have some pride with each other, work together and develop a team that's going to battle to the best of their ability every single week.”
Norwin opened training camp Aug. 11 trying to end a three-year streak of missing the playoffs. The team went 4-23 the past three seasons, including 2-7 each of the past two years.
“All (the years) I've been in high school, all you've heard is we're bad. We're soft,” senior defensive lineman Corey Chrisman said. “Coming here, we want to change that. We want to change the season; we want to make the playoffs and do all these things. I think we can do it.”
The Knights' players said they sensed a greater excitement about the program this season than in past years. Part of that, they said, was Brozeski taking over as head coach after spending 17 seasons as a Norwin assistant. But a greater part of it had to do with a motivation to turn their recent luck around.
“You can't do anything about the past; you're taking advantage of what's in front of you, and you don't know anything about the future,” Brozeski said. “Last year is what last year was, and we had some players who got some good experience and made progress. But our focus is on this season and making sure we develop and take advantage of the most important season, which is the next season.”
Norwin comes into the 2014 season with some key returners from 2013, including second-team all-conference selections in quarterback Nick Amendola, wide receiver Logan Deri and offensive lineman Dante Rizzo and honorable mention all-conference selections in running back Peyton Deri, Chrisman, defensive lineman Anthony Melocchi and linebacker Steven Petrick.
“I definitely feel we're talented,” senior wide receiver/defensive back Zach Hall said. “We are deep — I think we're deeper this year than any other year. I think if we stay healthy, which is the most important thing, we can definitely get some wins and make a run.”
Although the Knights finished 2-7 last season, players said they saw progress overall.
Much of the progress came on the defensive side of the ball, as Norwin allowed 10 fewer points per game compared to 2012. The defense kept the Knights in games against Altoona (a 21-0 loss), Penn-Trafford (a 17-3 loss) and Gateway (a 13-6 loss) and was a major factor in the team's victories over Latrobe (21-13) and Shaler (42-14).
On the other hand, the offense struggled. Norwin didn't score a touchdown until the third game of the season and tallied a combined 44 points in its seven losses.
“Hopefully, we can get (the offense) going earlier in the season,” Deri said. Last year (against Penn-Trafford), I felt if we'd gotten things going, that could have been a win for us. If we can get things going, I think we can be good.
“I think our defense can be strong. We're going to have to have a couple of guys step up at the linebacker position and safety position, but we'll see. We've got guys working hard at those positions, and we'll see what happens.”
Brozeski said one of the biggest bright spots of the summer was the work of the offensive and defensive lines. Chrisman and Melocchi, both seniors, and Rizzo, a junior, are expected to provide leadership up front this season.
“I think our line's going to be really good this year,” Melocchi said. “We have a lot of people coming back. We have a pretty big line (and) a lot of fast, good players on the line this year.”
At the skill positions, Norwin lost leading rusher Zack Tinsley and leading receiver Kyle Baum. Key returners include seniors Logan Deri (WR/DB), Cavante Goins (RB/S), Hall (WR/DB), Zeke Kljucaric (WR/LB) and Tony Schiavone (WR/LB); and juniors Peyton Deri (RB/LB), Jon LoChiatto (WR/CB) and Petrick (TE/DL).
Amendola, a junior, and senior Sean Bowen were competing for time at quarterback.
“Throughout the course of the summer, I'd say this is the sharpest that both of them have looked,” Brozeski said. “That's to be expected as they progress and get older. I like how they're both competing and working with each other and using that competitiveness to help drive each other.”
Norwin will begin the season by hosting Latrobe at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 29.
“We want to make the playoffs — playoffs, playoffs, playoffs,” Chrisman said. “We want to have a better season. We want to win more games. But we've got our eyes set on the playoffs, and we want to finish strong.”