Northwest looks to get over the hump in 2021
WICHITA, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - The first day of fall practices in Wichita got off to a slight delay. Heavy rains came down right as teams were set to take the practice field for the first time Monday afternoon, but that wasn’t enough to shake off the excitement to return to the field.
“Our guys go through winter and spring training. It’s finally here. It’s finally live. They see the light at the end of the tunnel playing [Bishop] Carroll three Thursday’s from now and are excited about the opportunity to finally get started,” said Grizzles head coach Steve Martin.
While rising COVID cases still loom large, the start of this season seems much more certain than last year. Wichita Public Schools initially pulled the plug on playing fall athletics before changing the decision and starting a week later than planned. For Northwest, that meant losing a scheduled game against rival Bishop Carroll, who they will meet to open the season September 2nd.
The Grizzlies did face the Golden Eagles last fall, the matchup coming in the sub-state round of the 5A playoffs. The 41-21 win by Northwest sent the Grizzlies to the state championship game, one that saw their season end in a loss in Pittsburg for a third straight season. Just the 4th team in state history to finish runner-up three straight years, Martin doesn’t let that result bring him down.
“Its’ nothing to hang your hat on, it’s nothing to be sad about. I know there are probably 31 other schools in 5A that would want to change places with us and be in the game. You know we take some flak but my argument is they weren’t in there. So we’re gonna do it, were gonna keep knocking on the door and it’s gonna happen.”
Among the names Martin must replace if Northwest is to play for a fourth straight title are Julius Bolden, Wetu Kalomo, Todric McGee & Zac Daher; all four are now playing Division 1 football. Stepping in for Bolden at running back will be LJ Phillips, who as a sophomore saw extended run alongside the Northern Illinois rusher. Phillips will take on the role as lead back, also following in the footsteps of Iowa State Heisman candidate Breece Hall, whom he watched as an 8th grader.
His backfield mate will be Geremiah Moore, who has caught the eye of a pair of FBS programs himself, earning offers to play at both Army and Navy. Moore started last season at wide receiver before transitioning to QB, and has focused his attention to playing behind center. Martin says he reminds him of a past signal caller he coached while at Wichita Heights.
“He reminds me a lot of Matt Reed, who, I was defensive coordinator at Heights in 2010 and we used to say ‘if Matt made a bad read, the next play he made people pay’, because he was such a competitor and hated messing up--that’s Geremiah.”
Other key names returning for the Grizzlies include defenders Nathan Carter and Darius Diaz, and lineman Keyvan Stallings.
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