“We had probably 200 people on the field celebrating with the Totem Pole, but also waiting for the final score (of Snider and Bishop Dwenger),” North Side coach Ryan Hall said. “When we found out the result, it was pretty neat with how everyone was together and reacting to it.”
Now North Side (5-3, 5-1 SAC) has only to beat Northrop to be crowned champion. The Bruins have lost their last five SAC games by an average of 26 points.
Hall believes his team will have a solid week of practice and be prepared for Northrop, but not for the reasons many would believe.
“The (SAC Victory Bell) is the bell, and we will be excited if we win it, but the seniors won't have a chance to ring it much as it will be next year's team that has it,” Hall said. “What excites our guys most is having our team picture on the wall at North Side. From the 1930s to now so many of our sports teams have had their picture on the wall for winning something. We have talked about how if our group wins (the SAC), they will have their group on the wall until North Side is gone.
“I believe that is what our team talks about the most.”The last two weeks have been anything but cakewalks for the undefeated and seventh-ranked Lions. A late touchdown was needed to edge Woodlan two weeks ago, followed by a 28-point victory over Garrett that was closer than the score indicated, with the game tied at halftime.
“We have had to battle quite a bit, make adjustments and the kids have made plays when we needed to,” Leo coach Jared Sauder said. “It will be nice in sectionals to have these close ballgames.”
The close contests show Sauder and his coaching staff how certain players respond to big-time situations.
“In a blowout, you don't know how your team will respond in a close game,” Sauder said. “It is a nice feeling to know how players respond and continue to battle.
“When you have blowout wins through the season, you are not sure what things you need to improve on.”After five straight defeats to begin the season, the Knights have strung together three straight victories, including wins over NHC title contenders East Noble and Homestead.
Norwell has done it primarily through turnovers, or rather the lack thereof. Through the first five games, the Knights had a minus-10 turnover differential.
Compare that with the three-game winning streak where Norwell has not turned the ball over once.
“There have been no special plays or different things we have done, we have just eliminated the turnovers,” Norwell coach Jeff Miller said.
While the 0-5 start was disappointing, it did come to teams a combined 30-10 so far this year.
“You can look at our win-loss record and say one thing, but we play good competition,” Miller said. “But we have had guys step up and make big plays for us over the past few weeks that have definitely helped us start to win ballgames.”
The Knights had a similar late-season push last year, winning its only two games of the season – including an upset of Bishop Dwenger – in sectional play.*After Carroll's modest two-game losing streak earlier this season, the Chargers (6-2) have responded with three straight victories by an average of 40 points.
One of those wins came against Homestead, the first win over the Spartans in 10 years.
“We thought we were the best (starting 3-0), but losing to New Haven and East Noble back-to-back really put things in perspective,” Carroll junior Justin Tranquill said. “With sectionals coming up, you can really sense the team chemistry and things are clicking.”
*North Side will attempt to clinch the SAC title this week with one of its healthiest rosters all season.
Senior safety Earreis Lewis is expected to be 100 percent after suffering a concussion against Bishop Luers and playing just one series against South Side.
Senior linebacker Tyvon Kelley will be fully healthy after nursing a high ankle sprain for the last few weeks he suffered against Delta.
Senior athlete Tabor Jordan should also be ready after he tweaked a high ankle sprain injury against South Side that he originally injured against Snider.
*Bishop Luers' 27 points against Columbus Hartley was a season high. But it is not as if the Knights' state championship team last year was one to put up tons of points. Entering Week 9 a year ago, Bishop Luers had scored 27 or more points just three times before hanging 58 on Bishop Dwenger in the regular-season finale.