FORT WAYNE – He kept waiting for it, as empty Friday followed empty Friday. That moment when the towel was flung in … that moment when he walked into the locker room and saw the light going out in every eye …
Norwell football coach Jeff Miller kept waiting for it. And you know the best part of that?
He waits for it still.
“We were in games, and we just didn’t get any wins,” he says of last year’s 2-10 season. “And you hope to keep the kids. Sometimes when you’re in down cycles, by week seven or week eight the kids are ready to go on to wrestling or swimming or basketball. And we didn’t have any of that last year. They kept fighting.”
And, eventually, the proverbial corner came into view. After starting the season on the black-and-blue end of 56-14, 40-14 and 56-7 bludgeonings by Leo, Heritage and Carroll … after then going on to lose every regular season … the Knights’ ship finally came in.
In the first round of the sectional, they blanked Logansport 22-0. Then, in what Miller calls one of the biggest upsets in his 21 seasons of coaching, they stunned New Haven 22-20 at New Haven.
Then, they played host to Bishop Dwenger in the sectional championship game and played the Saints off their feet before losing 14-7.
Something to build on.
“The kids finished strong, and I can see a little bit carrying over,” Miller says.
Mainly that’s because there are a fair number of returnees to do the carrying. Among those Miller will build his team around are 6-foot, 200-pound senior Piercen Harnish, who piled up 1,639 yards of offense at quarterback and had 65 tackles, 8 1/2 for loss, at linebacker; Will Gerber, a 5-6, 175-pound running back who rushed for 466 yards and caught 16 passes for 62 yards; and receiver Reggie Hayes, a 5-11, 152-pounder who had 11 catches for 136 yards and a TD.
There’s also senior defensive end Tanner Moon, who had 28 tackles, 4 1/2 for loss and 2 1/2 sacks, junior fullback Adam Nahrwold and senior cornerback Reid Jutte, who had 20 1/2 tackles.
“We’ve got a lot of returning guys who were in that little bit of success at the end of last year, and that’s important,” Miller says. “I think the kids have to start believing. When you struggle, they don’t quite believe in themselves or believe in maybe you as a coaching staff. A lot of it is just confidence, and the year before we struggled a bit. We had some kids that hadn’t been around success, and, boy, when you lose that, it’s hard to get it back. We got it back last year.”