Season to remember for Norwin youth football team
The fifth- and sixth-grade Norwin youth football team’s season was filled with big moments.
It won the league’s offseason Lineman Challenge after finishing last in the competition last season, played at halftime at Heinz Field during a Steelers preseason game and ended its season in the Washington/Greene Football League Championship game.
The Trinity Hillers won 10-6, but the community is confident the Knights have a bright future with their 48-players roster, one of the largest in recent memory.
“I know it’s just fifth and sixth grade, but I’m really looking forward to seeing them in middle school and high school,” Norwin Youth Football interim president Renee Shaffer said. “I really hope we see this same group together, because it could really be something to see when their seniors if they stay together.”
The Hillers scored on a safety in the first quarter and added a touchdown with seven seconds left before halftime on a Hail Mary.
Down 8-0 in the fourth quarter, Knights quarterback Tristyn Tavares threw to Jake Knight for a 78-yard touchdown. The extra point, worth two points in the league, was blocked and returned for the last score of the game.
“It was a little disheartening, and the kids wanted it so bad,” Norwin coach Tony Barravecchio said. “Defensively, it was just that one pass. Offensively, we couldn’t get anything going. It got a little emotional after the game. I have three kids of my own, and I look at them like they’re mine because of how much time I spend with them.”
Norwin advanced to the title game with a 26-18 win over Washington.
Tavares and Knight connected on a 6-yard pass in the fourth quarter to tie the score at 18, and Vito Barravecchio hit the extra point. Tanner and Riley Shaffer pressured Washington’s quarterback, who threw an interception Potter Brozeski returned for a touchdown.
For all of the big plays made by Norwin, it was the moments they showed unity that stuck out to their coaches.
Voluntary workouts began in April, and the Knights welcomed athletes from the cheerleading team and other sports. Players, without the urging of coaches, often helped each other.
“It’s really special when you see kids finish a run and go back to encourage other kids to keep going, and they all do it together,” Tony Barravecchio said. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of watching them grow in football and away from the field with their character.”
Shaffer also spent the season “building alliances” with the high school football team and boosters.
Her efforts led to several opportunities for collaboration, including a senior lunch for the team’s sixth-grade players and cheerleaders. Coach David Brozeski and varsity captains Jack Salopek, Aaron Bowen and Sean Pavlik attended the lunch.
“They all gave inspirational speeches about what it takes to be able to move on to the next level,” Shaffer said. “They also came to the championship game and were the honorary captains. Getting that strong alliance is just really good for everyone involved. It was something new, and hopefully we started a tradition. It has to start somewhere, and that’s one step closer.”
The sixth-grade players will participate Sunday in the WGYFL Senior Bowl before they move on to the middle school team, and their coach, who was in his first year at the fifth- and sixth-grade level, said he wants to stay for a long time.
“One of the things I think we have to do as a community and organization is have continuity,” Tony Barravecchio said. “Until they tell me no, I plan on being at the fifth- and sixth-grade level for years to come. That’s how you build a program.”
Shawn Annarelli is a freelance writer.