Times Sports Editor
Fans of Northview football should make sure to pick up a roster as they come into this evening's home opener against Indianapolis Broad Ripple because the team has a decidedly different look this season.
While the term 'rebuilding' isn't one that most coaches like to use, the Knights graduated six all-conference players and a bevy of seniors from last year's WIC champion squad. Northview has won 19 conference games in a row while winning the last three titles, but this year will be a unique challenge for head coach George Gettle, who is in his 11th year with the Knights and has a 65-36 overall mark.
"I don't really like that word, but to be honest, when almost 50-percent of the kids on the roster are freshmen and sophomores, there's not really any other word you can use," Gettle said in regards to the term 'rebuilding.' "I use the term rebuilding lightly because we have some upperclassmen that are starting and we a few upperclassmen that have played football for several years. Guys like Jesse Miller and Drake McKee have started for a couple of years. When you have that many underclassmen on your roster, then you almost have to use the term to some extent."
Returning Miller (6'0, 225) is of great comfort as the senior ran for 1,069 yards last season with 14 touchdowns. He averaged better than 100 yards per game in rushing for the Knights. Kelly Hawkins (5'7, 145) also got five carries in the scrimmage against Terre Haute South last weekend.
"We knew coming into this year that we had a 1,000-yard rusher in Jesse Miller. We've always tried to run the ball regardless. It's never been 50/50, but it's probably been 60/40 in terms of pass to run," Gettle said of his team's rushing offense. "You always have to establish the run no matter what. I like to throw the ball because I think you spread people out vertically and horizontally, you can score a lot more points that way."
Northview debuts a freshman quarterback in Tucker Stewart (5'11, 160), who settled in during his snaps from scrimmage, but Gettle noted that he liked what he saw from his team running the ball behind a line that included: Brock Gardner (Jr., 6'1, 225), Corbin Fretz (Jr., 6'1, 240), Justin Sampson (Sr., 6'4, 265), Jack Winn (Sr., 5'11, 235) and Zach Williams (Sr., 6'0, 250).
To control the clock and set the tempo of the game you have to run the ball. You have to run the ball late in games to preserve victories. We've worked very hard on running the ball the last two weeks in practice," Gettle said. "In the scrimmage last week we saw some good things. We didn't have any breakaway 20-30 yard runs, but there were quite a few times we were running for five, six or seven-yard gains. I felt that Terre Haute South had some pretty formidable foes up there on the defensive line."
With a freshman quarterback, developing a connection between Stewart and his receivers has been a work in progress, but Stewart did connect on four passes against the Braves, two of them going for scores.
Bucholz (Jr., 6'1, 180) and Rector (Jr., 5'9, 140) are the upperclassmen that return at wide receiver, but they are joined by Jordan Tracy (Sr., 5'8, 150), Ben Girton (Fr., 5'7, 155) and Hunter Ragan (Fr., 6'4, 180).
The learning curve for some of the freshmen has been steep in the early going, but Gettle has seen improvements over the course of practice.
"It hasn't taken any longer than I thought it would because I thought it would take some time to get things rolling. Honestly, I think they've done a really good job with it," Gettle said. "They were kind of worried when camp started because of everything we were throwing at them, but I just told them to 'slow down and take your time.' Things are coming together quite nicely and I think you'll see the passing game get better each week."
The defense will be a work in progress during the early going as graduation hit that side of the ball perhaps the hardest.
"We lost the majority of our defense from last year so if you think the offense is young, the defense is even younger. They've progressed nicely. Coach (Mike) Meyer has done a fantastic job. The guy is a fantastic coach. He's thrown a lot at them and they've had a lot to learn," Gettle said.
On the line, the Knights are looking at defensive ends Derek Mills (So., 6'2, 220) and Chad Godsey (Sr., 5'10, 185) along with Trent Nevins (Jr., 6'3, 310) and Daniel Kimball (Jr., 6'5, 255). The linebackers include Miller along with McKee (Sr., 6'1, 205), Jacob Dean (Fr., 5'7, 195) with Hawkins, Travis Campbell (Sr., 5'10, 17), Chase Haring (Jr., 5'11, 155) and Zack Hyde (So., 5'10, 165) in the defensive backfield.
"This is only week three so I think the defense is going to get much better as we progress. Some of the tackling issues and missed assignments in the scrimmage was disappointing when we were out there, but when we watched the film on Saturday, what we saw is that everything we did wrong is correctable," Gettle said. "It wasn't that we weren't athletic enough to be there, it wasn't that we aren't smart enough to know where we're supposed to be. It's just that we made some mistakes that are correctable, fundamentally and technique-wise. If the kids pay attention in practice and want to get better, we can correct them."
With the inexperience comes mistakes and the Knights had some missed tackles in the scrimmage against South, but Gettle felt that his defense will improve on the field week-to-week.
"As far as open field tackling, lets give Terre Haute South some credit. Some of their backs are state qualifiers in track. They had a little bit more speed than we did," Gettle said. "When they got into space we didn't do a good job of staying on the back hip and we definitely didn't do a good job of breaking down. We were lunging at people. That stuff happens sometimes, but it's good that it happened in the scrimmage. It shows you that you have some stuff to work on."
2012 Northview varsity football schedule
|Tonight||vs. Broad Ripple||7 p.m.|
|Aug. 24||at Edgewood||7 p.m.|
|Aug. 31||at T.H. North||7 p.m.|
|Sept. 7||vs. Sullivan||7 p.m.|
|Sept. 14||at Owen Valley||7 p.m.|
|Sept. 21||at Vincennes Lincoln||7 p.m.|
|Sept. 28||vs. S. Vermillion||7 p.m.|
|Oct. 5||at West Vigo||7 p.m.|
|Oct. 12||vs. Brown County||7:30 p.m.|