Northview just 'hitting pause'
Northview Academy’s final football game this fall wasn’t an ending.
When a team’s oldest players are freshmen, there’s no such thing as senior day.
“I told our freshman, ‘Guys, this is unlike anything I’ve been a part of,’” said Cougars coach Todd Loveday. “We’re not ending it here. We’re just hitting pause. We’re not losing anybody.”
The Cougars, in their first year of existence, started on the road to varsity football this fall, going 5-3 at the middle school level and 4-5 in freshmen games. Loveday said the season presented lots of challenges and was the most instructive for him in his 15 years of coaching. Obstacles were everywhere, from having to take a bus to practice every day to scratching together a schedule just months before the first game. At one point, the team played three games in nine days.
“We did a lot of research on new schools, expectations,” Loveday said. “We’re teaching them to compete without worrying about conditions. We don’t have a practice field. No locker room. I thought it was a good time to set the tone, regardless of conditions we’ll play hard every play.”
That’s exactly what Northview did. Loveday was just hoping to finish the season with 20 freshmen to get things started. Instead, 37 players stuck with it on the freshmen team and the Cougars have more than 70 total in the program. Northview went 3-1 against 3A and 4A schools and Loveday said he got contributions from unexpected places. He lost track of the number of starting lineups he used during the season, with player after player stepping up.
Measuring progress in a tangible way when there’s been no one to go before you is difficult but there were positive signs. The Cougars lost to Seymour’s unbeaten freshmen team by just eight points. They beat Gatlinburg-Pittman late in the season after losing at the start of the year.
The next step is developing leaders. With a team full of freshmen, senior captains don’t exist. That’s where the coaching staff had to also act like team captains, teaching even things most teams may take for granted like how to stretch and prepare for a game.
“To me, the advantage is there’s no bad habits to follow, not a losing mentality,” Loveday said. “At the same time, there’s not positive older kids that you can point to. These kids have to have faith that we know what we’re talking about.”
With so many sticking it out for the whole season, that may be the case. Loveday hopes to carry that enthusiasm into year two. Initially, there was going to be just one team but with such huge numbers the Cougars will try to schedule both junior varsity and freshmen games in 2014 before going varsity the next year.
“I think (the turnout) goes with a new school, a lot of pride,” he said. “Everybody I got to help coach I made sure was a positive influence, positive role model. Our goal is when they’re done with this year they can’t wait to play next year.”