Norwin eager to change program’s image

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Friday, August 13, 2021 | 6:01 AM


Editor’s note: Starting today, Trib HSSN will preview at least one WPIAL conference per day until the start of high school football season Aug. 27.

Jackson Pons is back at Norwin and reaching a level of comfort with his old friends and teammates that could send the sophomore on his way to a big season.

The confident receiver and safety who transferred back home after a year at Central Catholic thinks Norwin is on the verge of turning a corner.

“We want to show everyone we’re not the same old Norwin that loses almost every game every season,” Pons said. “We want to change the feeling around the community. … We’re coming to win now, and we’re going to be a winning team this year.”

Pons may be young, but he has done his homework on Norwin’s program. Despite spotty appearances in the WPIAL playoffs, the Knights haven’t had a winning season since 2008.

Competing in the shark’s mouth that is the Class 6A conference, the Knights have been inferior to opponents depth-wise but have still managed to compete off and on.

They have put a scare into some of the better teams, including Central Catholic, but often faded in the second half.

Putting together more complete, four-quarter performances are high on the team’s priority list.

“Our conference is a bear,” coach Dave Brozeski said. “A lot of teams we play are three or four deep at a number of spots. If we get an injury here or there, it can really affect us. Our kids want to compete and get better. We have had some great leadership and ownership so far.”

Norwin went 1-6 last season with its lone win coming against Baldwin (28-12). A talented freshmen and sophomore class gave the Knights a boost, and that group is a year older and ready to contribute.

Senior Luke Levendosky is primed to take over the quarterback duties after the graduation of Nick Fleming.

“Luke is ready to go and take on a leadership role,” Brozeski said.

Pons leads the receiving corps and will improve the secondary, while tight end also could factor into the passing game. Junior Noah Vogel and senior Aaron Schmook are the top two options at that position. Both have experience from last season.

Senior Dom Barca is the main running back again and also can catch passes out of the backfield.

“You have to be able to run the ball,” Brozeski said. “It’s not rocket science to know you need to control the line of scrimmage.”

Five senior linemen return in Austin Lane, Sebastian Rosado-Guindin, Matt Seigler, Bill Eger and Jake Young. The somewhat seasoned unit could help the Knights move the ball more effectively on the ground.

The Knights also have talent on special teams. Junior Xander Smith is a nationally ranked long snapper who also should help the Knights as a receiver. Also watch junior kicker Joey Castle, who also has been to national showcases.

“Xander did a nice job for us last year,” Brozeski said. “Joey kicked for us since he was a freshman. Special teams are a huge part of the game.”

Brozeski has a new-look staff that includes former Hempfield head coach Rich Bowen, who led the Spartans for the last nine years. He has not been an assistant since 1987.

Bowen will coach the offensive line, while his son, Sean, is on staff to coach quarterbacks.

“I am anxious to see how good our line can be as they work with coach Bowen,” Brozeski said. “The whole staff has been working together to get us ready to put our best team on the field. We’re looking forward to see how things work out.”

Norwin

Coach: Dave Brozeski

2020 record: 1-6, 1-6 in Class 6A

All-time record: 391-582-36

SCHEDULE

Date, Opponent, Time

8.27 at Penn-Trafford, 7

9.3 Latrobe, 7

9.10 at Connellsville, 7

9.17 at Central Catholic*, 7:30

9.24 Seneca Valley*, 7

10.1 at Baldwin*, 7

10.8 at North Allegheny*, 7:30

10.15 Mt. Lebanon*, 7

10.22 Canon-McMillan*, 7

10.29 at Hempfield*, 7

*Conference game

STATISTICAL LEADERS

Passing: Nick Fleming*

61 of 110, 877 yards, 5 TDs

Rushing: Dom Barca

48-331, 2 TDs

Receiving: Connor Chrisman*

18-385, 3 TDs

*Graduated

FAST FACTS

• New faces on the coaching staff include Mark Crovak (linebackers), the former Yough coach, along with Cory Chrisman (defensive backs) and Chris Capozzoli (offense). Tim Van Horn is the offensive coordinator.

• Junior Noah Dudik was going to play a key role as a receiver and defensive back, but he moved to Indianapolis over the summer.

• Norwin has not won a playoff game since 2008.

• The Knights won the WCCA 7-on-7 title again after winning in 2019. They beat Franklin Regional in the final — the team they will scrimmage against to start the year.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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