Underclassmen growing up quickly for Norwin football

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Saturday, October 17, 2020 | 11:01 AM


Class 6A football can make a team grow up quickly in the WPIAL.

Playing younger players is not always ideal but doing so, whether it be out of necessity or because of merit, can pay dividends down the road when underclassmen are more accustomed to the varsity level.

Norwin has a small football senior class — 12 players — so it needs to pull from the lower grades. But the Knights have been fortunate to find talent, not just capable bodies, in the sophomore and freshmen classes.

Those players have made an impact this season for the Knights, who took a 1-4 mark into Week 6.

The program is trying to turn a corner and return to playoff respectability.

The young group still is proving itself, and has a way to go to catch up to players like Jack Salopek and Jayvon Thrift, who were touted as freshmen before landing at Division I college programs. But they’re getting varsity reps and that can go a long way.

“You want to have your best players on the field,” Knights coach Dave Brozeski said. “We do have some younger guys who are doing some good things. They have really been able to learn from our older guys. Our seniors have taken them under their wing.”

A still-blossoming underclass group, which tasted some success at the youth levels, includes freshman Jackson Pons, a wide receiver and cornerback, who has seen substantial minutes for the Knights.

Pons recently was rated as the No. 13 wide receiver prospect in the Class of 2024 by recruiting site Collegefootballtoday.org. He was selected to the NextGen The Show Showcase in December in Florida.

“Jackson has a very bright future,” Brozeski said. “He does some things well and has nice size (6-1, 155). He was worked into our receiver rotation and also plays special teams for us.”

Knights senior wideouts Connor Chrisman and Ty Bilinsky have set an example for Pons, while another senior, tight end/defensive end Tanner Krevokuch, has been a sort of mentor for players like sophomore Noah Vogel, who plays the same positions.

Junior players such as running back Dom Barca also have helped to show the way.

Vogel had a touchdown catch against No. 1 North Allegheny.

Pons said leaning on the older players for advice had made his experience better, from practice to games.

“There is an amount of work you have to put in to reach where you want to be,” Pons said. “There are ups and downs and the adversity you will go through.

“I was always asking Connor Chrisman, Ty Bilinsky, Tanner Krevokuch and Nick Fleming about things. Asking my coaches questions helped a ton, too.”

Other underclassmen also making contributions include sophomore Noah Dudik, who starts at cornerback and was leading the team with three interceptions.

“He had one of his best games (against Baldwin in a 28-12 victory),” Brozeski said. “He was injured as a freshman; He had a hand injury. He also played some wide receiver.”

Sophomore kicker Joe Castle is another player seeing substantial time. He started as a freshman for the Knights.

Sophomore Josiah Pastories has seen time on the line.

The next wave of Norwin talent is willing to pay a respectful nod to those who played before them and, in this case, with them.

“Being a young guy on the field is definitely an accomplishment that I’m proud of,” Pons said. “But it also is a motivator because teams will try and attack you at wherever you’re playing.

“Everything is worth it at the end of the day … when you’re out there playing with your team under Friday Night Lights.”

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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