A clean slate
Northwest football looks to regroup as 2015 season is set to roll
By Mike Moore
Jackson – After a pair of 1-8 seasons under a new coach, there was a feeling things were going to change. After a 3-24 record from 2010 through 2012, there was the sense that the Northwest football program was ready to turn the corner.
And then, in 2013, the guys nearly did.
The 5-4 record not only eclipsed the total win total from those three years, but made the Mounties playoff eligible for the first time since 2008 and just the third time since the automatic qualified was established some 14 years prior.
In the end, there was heartbreak that the selection committee looked past Northwest, but there was momentum building, expectations soaring.
And then, 2014 presented another 1-8 finish.
“That was tough,” coach Corey Slater said simply earlier this week. He’s now in his fourth year with the program. “We kind of thought we had things fixed (after 2013). But I think we took some things for granted, with leadership and coming off a 5-4 season and all that. Joining the new conference was tough as well. Every week we were going into a buzz saw.”
What may have been even tougher concerning the record, was just how close some of the losses were.
Aside two lopsided setbacks to Lumen Christi (48-10) and Charlotte (45-7), Northwest’s biggest loss all season was a 34-14 game against Eaton Rapids in the opener.
The other five losses came by totals of 10, 17, 13 12 and five.
A couple plays here and there, in other words.
“We turned the ball over a lot, and at some really tough times,” Slater said of the close calls. “We had a lot of bad penalties that really hurt us. We know you can’t play from behind, especially against the teams we face. It’s a learning experience, and that’s what we’re hoping to do now, to grow from that.”
A new year is a fresh slate for a refreshed Mounties team looking to rebound.
“I don’t want to say this is a more prepared or more experienced team, because I liked last year’s group a lot. But in general, I like where we are right now,” Slater said. “It’s Year 4, we have more things installed that we didn’t a year ago. I don’t want to say we’re better at any one position, but we spent a lot of time developing skills.”
Slater said there are some new wrinkles on offense his guys will attack with.
“We’ll still use the spread-wing look, but we’re going to do some different things,” Slater explained. “We plan on moving the ball better than we did last year.”
Northwest averaged just 14.7 points a year ago, scoring eight or less four times.
Sophomore Ryan Crowley is set to take over at quarterback.
“I like what he’s done,” Slater said. “The leadership he’s shown is great.”
Running back Logan Everett played a few games before getting injured last year, but Slater called him “a kid that will grind.”
Noah Pieh returns as center to anchor the offensive line.
Defensively, the Mounties gave up more than 30 points per game in 2014, but a lot of that was due to an offense that gave the ball up too quickly too often.
“They were on the field way too much,” Slater said. “That will change this year.”
So to, he hopes, will the results.
Northwest kicks off the season Friday night at home against Eaton Rapids (JTV is covering the game) in what is sure to be a great test.
The Greyhounds went 8-4 a year ago, making the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
The Mounties will need a quick start to the season to restore some confidence and launch into what Slater thinks could be a very good year.
“We’re confident,” he said. “You don’t want to predict the number of games we might win or anything. I just think, if we score more and control the ball, we’ll be in every game we play. … Our goal is to make the playoffs, to do something this program never has. Nobody enjoys going 1-8. We want to be better than that.”