By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports
There’s a difference this year and Northwood coach Austin Brown can sense it in his locker room and on the practice field.
Once again, the Falcons are in the state quarterfinals (though in a different bracket than 2021) and preparing to try to do something the school has never done – reach the semifinals.
A year ago, the quarterfinals were against Westgate and the Falcons were going to be at home for that game.
But as Brown came to find out later, many on his team did not go into that game with the belief that they could win. (Even though they almost did, losing on a two-point conversion on the final play that would have sent it into overtime.)
When Brown met with each of his players after the season, he found out that the talk in the locker room that week had been about some of the older players saying “this is our last game.”
That is not the case this year.
“The whole focus during the off season and during this week to our players has been to remember how you felt last year when some of your leaders didn’t believe,” Brown said.
This time, it will be a road trip to New Orleans to take on Brother Martin at Tad Gormley Stadium in City Park. Game time this evening is an hour earlier than normal, at 6 p.m.
The Crusaders, who play in the Catholic League, are one of the storied programs in the state, having been to the state semifinals in each of the last three years.
But the Falcons are no strangers to playing well-established teams in the playoffs, having teed it up with Edna Karr, Warren Easton and Carencro in recent years.
“We’ve always believed we could play with anybody at any time,” Brown said. “It’s that belief in ourselves. We’ve been up against some really good teams. And we are still here.”
Still here, just moved a little bit.
In previous years, Northwood played in the Non-Select, Class 4A playoff bracket. The LHSAA reworked the playoff classifications during the first month of the season and the Falcons are now on the Select side and in Division I. That bracket is for the schools in the top 25 percent of enrollment of Select schools (not just Class 5A select schools).
But you know who else is in the same bracket? Edna Karr, Warren Easton and Carencro.
“We know we belong,” Brown said. “And I think that’s powerful to us for our confidence.”
What is also powerful to the Falcons’ confidence is their impressive 35-9 win over St. Paul’s, another member of the Catholic League, last week.
Northwood did not allow a touchdown (only three field goals) despite having turnovers in the red zone and gave up only 208 yards in total offense. Quarterback Mason Welch had a 69-yard touchdown run and added another TD run and a touchdown pass to Marc Denison.
Mar’Jayvious Moss had a 14-yard TD run and the Falcons also had a special teams touchdown on a blocked punt.
Brother Martin, the No. 13 seed at 7-5, is coming off a 27-24 win over St. Augustine. Northwood, the No. 5 seed, is 9-2 and has won seven straight games.
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Division I – Select Quarterfinal
5-Northwood (9-2) at 13-Brother Martin (7-5)
Where: Tad Gormley, New Orleans
Series: First meeting
Last week: Northwood beat St. Paul’s 35-9; Brother Martin beat St. Augustine 27-24
Rankings: Northwood received votes in LSWA 4A poll
All-time playoff record: Northwood 12-25; Brother Martin 30-30-2
Last semifinal appearance: Northwood – none; Brother Martin 2021
Radio: Northwood – Miracle 89.1 FM http://18.104.22.168:8192/kflo
Notables: Leading rusher Quintavion White has been fighting an injured ankle and saw limited duty last week against St. Paul’s (seven carries). Head coach Austin Brown said he expects White to be ready to go in Friday’s game … Taderius Collins blocked a punt and returned it 35 yards for a score last week … Quarterback Mason Welch had a career-high 108 rushing yards last week and Mar’Jayvious Moss added 68 … Moss and Camron McCullough were the leading tacklers with 11 each … Welch completed 10 passes, but none were for longer than 17 yards … Northwood is 0-3 in quarterfinal games — all coming in the last six years.