Falcons started preparing right away to fly high again

Note – This is the first in a series previewing all local high school football teams.

By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports

One day after a crushing 2021 quarterfinal loss to eventual Class 4A state champion Westgate, Northwood football coach Austin Brown called a meeting of the coaching staff to let them know one thing.

The 2022 season had just begun.

“I told the staff that we had a lot of guys returning with speed and strength,” Brown says. “We’ve got to focus on the mental aspect and the team aspect. Make sure egos stay checked and that personal expectations don’t outweigh the team goals.”

Nine months later, that message was brought home once again as Brown put the Falcons through a 72-hour “lock-in” at the school before the start of pre-season workouts. Throwing, catching and tackling will come soon enough, but Brown wanted there to be a bigger message with the lock-in.

“The focus is on team building,” he says. “When you go through something like this together, you tend to get a little bit closer to each other. Getting up at 6 o’clock, going at it all day long. Those things aren’t fun. But there is a lot of bonding, even with freshmen and seniors.”

Other than the slight issue of having security lights in the gym that wouldn’t go out at night – “they toughed it out,” Brown says – the coach says it got the Falcons where they need to be as they begin preparations for the ’22 season.

And make no mistake about it – there are high expectations for Northwood football this year.

This is a team that was the No. 4 seed, lost by two points to the eventual state champion and returns plenty of experience, including some of the top recruits in the area.

“It may be cliché, but it’s still the same thing for us,” Brown says. “Play good, hard, efficient football and play good defense. That’s the way it’s been for us the last few years. But with the players and coaching staff we’ve got, the expectations are high for our community.”

The 2018 team was undefeated in the regular season and 13-1 overall, so success is nothing new. But Brown believes there are intangibles at work for this year.

“You want your best players to be hard workers, but our best players also love Northwood football,” he says. “That’s shown through to our younger classes and it’s a team-wide thing. They all love Northwood football.”

Mar’Javious Moss will get plenty of attention from the opposition and Brown says using him in the right circumstances will be the key.

“We kind of outsmarted ourselves last year,” Brown says. “He was primarily on offense last year and defense when we needed him. Then we realized that we needed him on full-time defense and special packages on offense. He’s going to touch the ball 5-10 times on offense.”

Moss could line up anywhere – he’s played quarterback, receiver, running back, defensive end, linebacker, cornerback and safety – and scored six different ways last year. He also had five interceptions in a game.

“The most impressive thing about him is his football intelligence,” Brown says. “He understands what the (opposing) offense is trying to do or what the defense is trying to do.”

Senior defensive end TaDerius Collins, who showed up as a freshman at 6-1, 190 and is now 6-4, 250, “is just a freak. If you draw up what you want a Division I defensive end to look like, that’s him.”

Junior quarterback Mason Welch (6-3, 225) will be running the offense again. “We have to kick him out of the office sometimes,” Brown says. “The coaches are ready to go home and see their families and he’s wanting to watch more video. He’s a student of the game.”

Brown expects two-time All-District running back Quintavion White to get 20-25 carries per game. Slot receiver Marc Denison “will be our go-to guy on offense,” Brown says.

Offensive tackle Ja’marion Kennedy (6-3, 305) will be anchoring the offensive line and will be seeing time both ways.

On defense, there’s addition by subtraction. Disruptive nose tackle Ted Jamison moved over from offense. “I have to pull him out of practice sometimes because we can’t get anything done with him destroying everything,” Brown says.

Biggest question mark? “If our young offensive line can protect our quarterback and lead the run game,” Brown says.

Contact JJ at JohnJamesMarshall@yahoo.com

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