Wheatley discusses team

Published 8:52 pm Friday, December 14, 2012

Northview’s 2012 team will always be remembered as the school’s first state championship squad.

Since winning the state championship, Northview players have had different photo opportunities and interviews. At times, it seems like head coach Sid Wheatley hasn’t had a chance to catch his breath with all the rounds of calls, appearances and events. However, he did have time to answer some questions for our readers.

Wheatley acknowledged the fact that he wasn’t so caught up with wins and losses. He scheduled some tougher opponents because, win or lose, he knew it would help prepare his team for the high level of competition they would see in the playoffs.

“Yeah, I thought it would do us some good in the long run to play some of the bigger teams like West Florida, Marianna, and Gulf Breeze, who have really come on in the past few years,” Wheatley said. “There for a long time, they were kind of down as far as West [Florida] Tech and Gulf Breeze, but both those coaches, coach Lees and coach Nemith have built great programs over there. So, I knew it would help us to play some bigger, physically strong teams like that. If we could avoid injuries, it would prep us well I thought for the playoffs where you meet better competition down the road.”

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Wheatley said he felt that it was in a loss to one of the aforementioned teams that his team learned the most.

“I thought we learned something even from Marianna, which was a loss,” Wheatley said. “We had a lead, a significant lead in the fourth quarter and let it get away from us. You’ve got to complete games, you’ve got to finish and then we lost in overtime. If you scroll ahead to Freeport in the second round of the playoffs, we go to overtime again. We were able to get a stop and we knew what we had to do to win the game. We’d been there before. I thought that was a learning step for us. It was kind of a negative there to start with with the loss at Marianna, but we were able to regroup. We really got better I thought on both sides down the line and were able to get the overtime win, which was huge, against Freeport. I think it was a wake-up call for us in the playoffs.”

The team’s most physically challenging, also a loss, was also instructive for the team.

“Physically, we were really challenged against Gulf Breeze. They were so big and up front offensively that it was a challenge for us. I thought our kids played and competed hard all night. We just got a little outmanned. They had more depth than we did later in the game, but at the same time, I think it may have toughened us up because that was a game I believe that preceded right before we went into district play against Jay, and Baker and Freeport, and people like that. So, I think it kind of prepped us for the rest of the year and made us step it up a notch.”

As for the team’s wins, the state championship was obviously special, but Wheatley said the team’s semifinal game against Liberty County was probably even more impressive to him.

“I thought we played really well against Freeport in the regular season the first time, a complete game. Then, I thought we played exceptionally well in the semifinal game against Liberty County,” he said. “Those two kind of jump out at me, especially Liberty County that late in the season, knowing what was on the line, to play that well with no turnovers and play really good defense all night. I thought was a really, really big game. It kind of sprung us forward in the state championship game and I thought we played well again. I don’t know that we played quite as well in the state championship game, but we played well. But the Liberty County game was very impressive.”

Having won the state championship, everything is just now beginning to sink in, but ultimately, he’s most happy that the hard work of his players paid off.

“It’s kind of hard to describe initially and it’s still kind of sinking in,” Wheatley said. “It’s a great feeling. You feel so good. You’re so happy for these kids who put all the time and effort that they had. When I say they’re deserving of this, I mean, they really are. There’s just countless hours in the offseason that people don’t really see. You know, they see them on Friday night, but they don’t see all the work, the sweat and all the stuff that goes in, and this weight room, the offseason conditioning, and just the extra work at practice. So, to see them go through that and then reap the reward at the end, it’s a great, great thing for those kids.”

The season featured a host of injuries for the team, but teammates stepped up in a big way.

“We lost Neiko early for four games with the suspension, had Kevin Vaughan go down a few games with a hand [injury], we had a couple of linebackers—Dalton Daniel, Jeffrey Taylor both had hand issues—and then we had some guys that were banged up, but it seemed like every time that that happened we were able to find that next guy to step in and do a really good job for us,” Wheatley said. “We asked kids to move around. We took Cory Baggett from linebacker to defensive line, then we got thin again at linebacker, we had to bring Cory back to linebacker. So, it seemed like there was a group of kids or a small unit of kids that would fill in and just kind of, maybe not at that same level of those individuals, but pretty adequate replacements and able to get the job done for us and I thought that was big.”

Now that the season has come to a close, the realization is that the team is losing a lot of talented senior players.

When asked who some of the toughest seniors to lose are, Wheatley replied, “Obviously you think about people like Roderick Woods and LaMikal Kyles who have been here for so long. They were both four-year starters. Laderious Franklin, Blake McCall up front; Kevin Vaughan at quarterback did a very good job; Neiko Robinson obviously, who’s a great playmaker in the secondary and can do some things offensively. I tell you, some of the guys that are kind of overlooked are Chad Smith, Cory Baggett, and Logan Weber that really had a lot of intangible things. They played so tough and were great leaders for us. Tyler Roley would fall into that same category, but there’s several of those seniors. It’s gonna’ be tough and there not going to be easily replaced and some of them may not be able to be completely replaced, but we’re just gonna’ have to have what we had this year and that’s guys step up, work hard in the offseason and prepare themselves to kind of carry the torch for the standard these guys set this year. This team will always be remembered and this group of seniors will always be remembered for what they were able to accomplish.”