Northport ready for competition

When you take the challenge of trying to resurrect a high school football program that hadn’t fielded a team since you were a young man, the task is nothing but daunting. After all, football teams aren’t built in a season. Some aren’t built in a century. So it goes at Northport High, where veteran high school football coach Don Fox came out of retirement down the road at Rice and agreed to help rebuild football. Well, Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will a competitive Mustangs’ football team. But progress has been made. “It’s not quite like last fall,” Fox said after a recent practice session. “We were pretty much starting from ground zero. We still have a long way to go in some areas, but I have been impressed with some of the kids. We have a lot of kids who look like football players.” NHS, a member of the Northeast 1B eight-man league, hopes to improve on a 1-8 campaign last fall. ‘I think we can improve on that record…’ “I think we can improve on that record this season,” Fox said. “Our schedule looks pretty favorable. We have Mansfield and Easton-Thorpe on the schedule. They are just starting programs too. “We’re still a work in progress, but we’re a little excited.” Northport will open the 2011 season on Friday at Wellpinit. Game time is 3 p.m. The game with the Redskins is non-league this time around. It won’t be when the teams meet again on Oct. 14. When practice sessions started back on August 17, Fox greeted 18 players. KEY PLAYERS Some of the key players for NHS this fall will be junior quarterback Jeremiah Johnson, a 6-0, 170-pounder. Johnson played mostly receiver last year. David Higgins, a 5-11, 190-pound senior, will play behind Johnson at tailback and at linebacker. He’s also the team’s kicker. Higgins rushed for around 700 yards and scored eight touchdowns for NHS in his first season of football last fall. Northport, a little inexperienced and short of bodies up front, will be anchored on the line by 6-2, 245-pound junior Tyler Brunette. “He’s our key up front,” Fox conceded. “He’ll be anywhere where we can get behind him…he has a lot of experience and he’s showing some leadership.” Fox’s junior is easily the biggest body on the Northport team this fall. “He’s the only kid we have who weighs over 200 pounds,” Fox said. Other key players include sophomore Ben Short, a 5-8, 135-pound linebacker and receiver. Tough kid “He isn’t very big,” Fox conceded. “But he’s a really good football player.” Fox said Short solidified that status last year in a one-sided loss to powerhouse Cusick. “Ben got laid out on a play against Cusick…it was an incredible hit…I thought we had a dead kid there, it was such a tough hit. But Ben got up…from that point on, he has been a really good football player.” Another player to watch is 6-1, 170-pound junior Cody Litts. He’ll play receiver and defensive end. Dylan Masters, a 6-2, 175-pound junior defensive end, will also be a key player for NHS. PROSPECTS Fox says he has some good “skill position kids, but we are light on the line…we expect to be better. The kids are more familiar with me and with the game. But we’ve still got that learning curve. We have a couple of eighth-graders out who have never played before.” ELSEWHERE Fox figures Cusick will be tough again and so will Columbia-Inchelium. Selkirk has some good kids and Republic has 22 kids out after struggling with only 12 players last fall. “We’re looking forward to getting the season going,” Fox said. “Like everybody else, we’ve got to stay healthy.”