Published 4:42 pm Tuesday, October 25, 2005
By By Adam Prestridge
The past two seasons for Northview High School's football program have been like night and day.
The Chiefs finished last year 0-7 with no hope of making the Florida High School Athletic Association's (FHSAA) state playoffs. This year, NHS is 5-3 and has already secured a first-round spot in the playoffs with the opportunity to host an opening-round game with a win over Baker next Friday night.
The Chiefs have put up some lofty offensive numbers this season, which has caused some teams to overlook the their potent defense. Leading the pack of headhunters are sophomores James Lewis and Isaiah Powell, who are No. 1 and No. 2 respectively.
Second-year head coach Cody Keene believes having two underclassmen lead the way on defense speaks highly for them as well as the direction the football program is headed in.
"It's good that they are the Top 1 and 2 tacklers on our team at this point in the season," Keene said. "We think that they're going to be very good players in the future. They are both good kids. They are both committed to this program and what we're doing. I expect them to develop into great leaders for this team."
Lewis, a 16-year-old linebacker, leads the team with 51 tackles, two of which have been for losses. His biggest game this season was against Freeport when he chalked up 17 tackles.
"James is not as consistent as we want him to be in practice," Keene said. "He has some good days and some bad days, but he works hard in practice. He plays hard in games, but Isaiah and James are both sophomores and make sophomore mistakes."
Lewis said he doesn't have any certain secret about being successful on the gridiron; he simply tries to play fundamentally sound.
"I just put my face on the football, get low and wrap up," he said.
Powell, a 15-year-old defensive end, follows close behind Lewis with 43 tackles, six of which have been for losses. He leads the team in sacks with five and also has two fumble recoveries.
"Isaiah is probably the hardest working kid we have in practice," Keene said. "He's always full speed and practices with intensity. For a 15-year-old sophomore, he really works hard in practice. He plays with reckless abandon on Friday night, he plays hard every play. That is what I like the most about him. He's got be more mature in the classroom, that's something we've got to make a lot of improvement on, but he works hard, hard on the football field and in the weight room."
There's no secrets on what Powell does to be successful. He simply plays "hard-nosed" football.
"I've been working hard in practice and working hard with the weights," Powell said. "I just stick it to them."
Both Lewis and Powell agree that one of the differences in the team compared to last year is their work ethic in the weight room.
"We've all been working hard in the weight room," Lewis said.
Powell added that the Chiefs have gelled more this season as a team.
"We have way more team spirit this year," he said. "Last year, we didn't have much team spirit and we had too many distractions. Last year, we didn't go into the game expecting to win, this year, we go in more confident. This year we've been working hard in the weight room and moving on the ball. Our defensive and offensive play is better because we're playing smart ball and playing hard."
Keene agrees with them both.
"We play together more as a team and I think our work ethic and time in the weight room in the off season has paid off," Keene said. "Our kids made a commitment and bought into the weight program. We're still not strong enough to be where we want to be by any means, but we are stronger and our kids practice harder. Playing more as a team is a big thing."
Northview has also posted a 1-0 record in Class B, District 1 play this season. A win over Baker at home Friday night will determine if the Chiefs hit the road in round one of the FHSAA state playoffs or host. Keene said in order to win the battle, his team will have to play sound defensively and as a cohesive unit.
"We've got to play great defense," Keene said. "We've got to protect the football. In our losses, we were careless with the football and we didn't score when we were in the red zone. Fourteen times in the red zone during those three losses, we didn't score any points and we had eight turnovers combined in those losses. We can't have turnovers, we've got to cut down on our mistakes and we've got to play great defense. If we play great defense, we'll win in the playoffs."
Lewis plans on doing his part to make sure the Chiefs host the playoffs.
"I'm going to try to get as many tackles as I can and go full speed every play," he said. "I'll do everything I can. We've got to avoid penalties, avoid mistakes, execute and hold onto the ball."
Powell mirrored his teammates' sentiments.
As for Lewis and Powell's contribution to the team, Keene said it's all about team work.
"We have a team here; our kids all get along real well," he said. "We're making a lot of progress here."