Northgate’s seniors look to end streak
Thursday, August 26, 2021 | 6:01 AM
When Northgate ran the final play of its 2020 season, coach Mike Fulmore looked at his sideline and had to be in near disbelief of what he saw.
There were no remaining players available, just the 11 on the field. Poor numbers, followed by injuries, had decimated the Flames.
That loss — a 26-6 decision against Bishop Canevin — was Northgate’s 32nd consecutive defeat. But Fulmore, entering his fourth year as head coach, has found reasons to be encouraged.
“The last two years, where we have suffered has been leadership,” he said. “But those guys that have played for me for three years have given everything they can.
“We haven’t forfeited any games. We’ve never leaned back on (roster) numbers and looked for excuses. We’ve always focused on getting better. It’s very satisfying to see, going into my fourth season, that everything is coming together.”
Fulmore estimates this year’s team will have around 25 players and could be primed to turn things around due mostly to a strong senior class.
One of those veterans is Davonte Christie, who is preparing to play a variety of positions, including quarterback, where he spent some time in 2020.
“We expect our guys, coming into camp on day one, to be ready for an injury to dramatically change what we’re doing,” Fulmore said. “Davonte is going to play numerous roles for us this year. He’s going to be catching touchdowns, running for touchdowns and throwing for touchdowns.”
Austin Mitchell, who finished last year under center, will compete for the starting job as a sophomore.
Colton Zdobinski , Lewis Clark and Christie will make up the receiving group. Vito Pascal, a former starting offensive lineman, will shift to receiver as well.
Austin Mitchell’s brother, Jaden, will be heavily relied on in the backfield.
“He’s had nice vision, acceleration and beautiful balance, but he didn’t have that confidence,” Fulmore said. “He’s a shining point of the team this (offseason). The kid has been a leader. He hit the weight room and attacked it with ferocity.”
Aidan Gross will aid the run game, which will be controlled by offensive linemen Dylan McWilliams, Jake Harrison and 340-pound Leroy Wheeler, who Fulmore believes has legitimate college potential.
Wheeler and McWilliams will anchor the defensive line. Pascal and Gross will start in the linebacking ranks and Clark, Austin Mitchell, Zdobinski and Christie project as starters in the secondary.
“There’s so much athleticism and speed on that field,” Fulmore said.
Fulmore believes that Northgate’s conference, the Big Seven, is the best in Class A. If that is the case, it makes finding wins even more of a challenge. But Fulmore is seeing — and seeking — plenty of growth and wants to make sure that is acknowledged.
“That’s what coaching is about, celebrating progress,” he said. “One thing that I’m constantly on my assistant coaches about is doing the small things right. When your focus is on doing the small things, it’s easy to find things to celebrate.
“We talk about getting that first win and ringing that bell at Alumni Field, but those wins are built on a bunch of little things that you have to do right.”
Coach: Mike Fulmore
2020 record: 0-8, 0-7 in Class A Big Seven Conference
All-time record: 205-233-7
Date, Opponent, Time
8.27 Carlynton, 7
9.3 Mapletown, 7
9.11 at Bishop Canevin, 7
9.17 at Cornell*, 7
9.24 Union*, 7
10.1 at Fort Cherry*, 7
10.8 at Shenango*, 7
10.15 Burgettstown*, 7
10.22 OLSH*, 7
10.29 at Rochester*, 7
Passing: Davonte Christie
24-73, 323 yards, 3 TD
Receiving: Lewis Clark
11-174, 4 TD
Rushing: Davonte Christie
91-178, 4 TD
• Mike Fulmore’s son, P.J., was a standout running back who won a WPIAL and a PIAA title at North Catholic before playing collegiately at Duquesne. P.J. now works for Pittsburgh Public Schools and is a new father.
• Northgate’s losing streak is the longest active streak in the WPIAL. Ambridge holds the second-longest mark at 23 consecutive losses. Former WPIAL member Uniontown has also lost 32 straight.
• Despite the struggles, Northgate does have some recent success, going 10-2 in 2016 and reaching the WPIAL Class A semifinals.
• Northgate has never won a WPIAL title or appeared in a championship game.
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