Underclassmen developing for Norwin football team
Norwin football coach Art Tragesser doesn't have a crystal ball, but last Friday night at Vandergrift's Davis Field he could, indeed, see into the future.
While his Knights (1-5, 1-5) lost to upstart Kiski Area, 36-14, Tragesser saw an abundance of underclassmen starting and playing key roles. For instance, the Knights' secondary was composed of three sophomores and a freshman — nearly unheard of in Quad-A play.
Nicholas Amendola, also a freshman, is the starting quarterback.
While the results aren't showing in terms of wins and losses, Tragesser has been pleased with the play of his young team — noting several are gaining invaluable experience, which will benefit the program's future. Several of the Knights' losses have been closer than the final score has indicated, he said.
“Our younger kids did well,” said Tragesser, referring to last week's game. “I was very proud of the effort. They didn't give up and fought hard. They have tremendous potential. The final score didn't reflect the effort given.”
While injuries have been a large factor in the youth movement, Tragesser said several younger players have played their way into the lineup.
He pointed to the 6-foot, 195-pound Amendola as a player the team can build around.
“He has great composure and is a great competitor,” Tragesser said of his young signal-caller.
“He hates to lose and hates to do anything bad. He gives everything he has.”
In the loss to the Cavaliers, the Knights ran into another rising freshman, Kiski Area running back Lincoln Clayton, who had a coming-out party of sorts, finishing with 187 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries.
However, turnovers at key moments against the Cavaliers helped Kiski blow the game open and stalled any momentum the Knights had built. Norwin's offense also experienced some growing pains, as it struggled to move the ball much of the night after getting out to an early 8-7 lead.
Things aren't going to get any easier this week, as the Knights travel to perennial power Gateway for a Quad East game. The Gators (5-1, 5-0), coming of their first loss last week to North Allegheny, have an abundance of size, speed and depth. Gateway defeated Kiski Area earlier this season, 55-14.
Despite the apparent mismatch, Tragesser said heis confident in his team and expects another strong effort.
“We're working hard and getting better every week,” he said. “The kids are very excited to go down there and play Gateway. It's a great opportunity.”
The Gators, despite scoring just three points last week, are averaging 41.8 points per game through six weeks, while giving up just under 12 per contest.
Gateway's defensive speed will be a major test for the Knights and Amendola. Last season, the Gators defeated Norwin 85-0. According to Tragesser, the team isn't focusing on that score or using it as any extra motivation.
“We're not even thinking about it all,” Tragesser said. “That was last year. We're working hard, and our goal is to get better every week.”
Gateway leads the all-time series 18-4, with Norwin's last victory over the Gators coming in 2000.
Brian Hunger is a freelance writer.