Highlands’ Gabe Norris is connecting the dots for the Golden Rams

Friday, September 6, 2019 | 3:18 PM

Getting off to a good start is important for any young player and Highlands midfielder Gabe Norris is off to one of the best of his high school career.

Through three games this season, the junior has scored five goals and tallied four assists. In total, the Golden Rams have scored nine goals as a team, meaning Norris has had a hand in every goal his team has produced.

“I wanted to come out fired up and get us going early this season,” Norris said. “I wanted to score a few goals, get a few assists and pretty much do whatever I could do to get the team going.”

As a central midfielder, Gabe essentially needs to be involved in everything the team does on the pitch. He plays a position that covers the field from 18-yard box to 18-yard box. He delivers passes that set up teammates, he switches the ball from side to side, and he has proven he has the ability to put the ball in the back of the net as well.

But it’s not just his skills that make him a special player. It’s his ability to process what is going on throughout the course of a game and apply it to his decision making.

“He understands the game very well,” Highlands coach Jason Norris said. “Outside of high school, he’s had a lot of success and I think developing that experience and leadership and then bringing it into the high school realm has benefited the team.”

Jason, who also doubles as Gabe’s dad off of the field, said his son started to develop that unique sense of awareness at a young age. He started playing soccer at age 3 and the Golden Rams standout said he always just wanted to have a ball at his foot.

“I started noticing that he was doing things with the ball that I thought were pretty impressive,” Jason said. “I kind of took it with a grain of salt because I was his dad, but then it just continued to manifest itself.”

While Jason tried to help him grow as a player, there was only so much he could do. At age 5, Gabe started playing for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds club and then joined their developmental academy in the U12 age group. His soccer IQ quickly started to grow.

Soon enough, he was earning awards within his club team and he was also selected to travel overseas to play games in Spain, Belgium and Netherlands, which helped him grow even further as a player.

“That had a huge impact on my game,” Gabe said. “Over there, it’s obviously a lot faster and I got moved around a lot position-wise, and I think that helped a lot because of the position I’m playing now. I can move wherever on the field and know a little bit of how to play it.”

Before Gabe joined the Highlands program as a freshman, the Golden Rams had won three games in the two previous years. During his freshman year, they won eight and last year they turned in an overall record of 7-10.

Gabe tallied 23 goals and 20 assists in his first two seasons and had nabbed Section 1-AAA all-section honors as well. Former Highlands coach Brad Walker, who now coaches the newly established boys soccer team at Leechburg, said Gabe was one of the main reasons for the quick turnaround.

“He’s a next level type of talent,” Walker said.

Last season, Gabe scored in clutch moments, delivering game-winning goals against Hampton and Knoch. He had the Golden Rams on the brink of their first playoff appearance since 2004.

Now, he’s turned his attention to doing whatever he can to help his team take that next step and work its way into the Class AAA playoffs.

“If we keep it up, keep our heads, and play the way that I believe we can play, I think we can make the playoffs this year,” Gabe said. “I think we can be really good. I think we can surprise some teams.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .


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