McDERMOTT — The Northwest Mohawks, quite frankly, are only about moving forward — with nowhere to go but up.
And, fourth-year head coach Jason Smith is approaching this season that his club can not only compete in every contest, but also surprise some squads.
While the Mohawks have a long ways to go from last year’s 2-20 campaign — which included going winless in the Southern Ohio Conference Division II — Smith believes his roster consisting of five good senior leaders, four talented juniors, and even a sophomore and freshman mixed in will make an impact.
“Our program is moving in the right direction. We’ve got great leadership this year. We have four four-year seniors and a great group of freshmen and sophomores coming up,” said the coach. “We’re going to take tremendous strides this year to get better. Last year was rough and we got pounded a lot. I look for us to be battling every game this year. We are going to compete every night, and I look for us to surprise some people. I love these kids and they work hard and I’m excited about what we can do this year.”
What the Mohawks can do, and are already doing, is getting better in all phases — while making good use of their height.
The core of the team returns in four-year seniors Billy Crabtree (6-2), Timmy Emmons (6-2), Braden Borens (6-4) and Braxton Marcum (6-2), with touted juniors Brycen Carver (6-6), Blake Carver (6-4), Kyle Butler (5-9) and Nathan Rivers (5-9).
“We had a very good summer, we have some good seniors that have played varsity for two or three years, and we have some good juniors coming back. I really like our height at 6-6 and two 6-4s and three 6-2s. We have some really good bigs right now in Brycen Carver, Blake Carver and Braden Borens,” said Smith. “They have worked extremely hard on their post moves and their touch. We’ve really got good height and we want to take advantage of that. We’re going to try with our height and size to pound it inside and get to the free-throw line. I really anticipate us shooting a better field-goal percentage.”
Brycen Carver is the starting center, and Butler is the point guard.
Rivers, in Northwest’s final football game of the season, suffered a broken collarbone — but Smith said he was on-track to return as early as the opening week of December.
Rounding out the roster are 5-10 speedy sophomore Brayden Campbell and 5-9 freshman Dakota Secrest.
In all, there are 32 in the entire program from freshmen through senior, with 11 listed on the varsity.
“From a 2-20 year, we need to improve upon everything. From the summer until now, we’ve really worked on our rebounding with our height, our ball-handling every day, just the execution of our offense,” said Smith. “If we limit our turnovers and make some free throws and some layups, I think we’re going to be in every ballgame. Shooting the ball is just reps. It’s muscle memory where you just have to get in the gym and shoot shots. That’s how you get better shooting.”
Besides Rivers’ injury which affects guard play, the Mohawks must develop depth, as they only go seven deep — with foul trouble being a serious concern in their half-court man-to-man-defense.
Northwest will be playing 16 SOC II games this year, with the addition of Eastern from the SOC I.
Smith said a team goal is to simply make strides in the league.
”Our conference is brutal. The SOC II is extremely tough to begin with, and now we have 16 games. With Wheelersburg, whenever you lose a Division I-caliber athlete like they did and you are still favored, that just says what kind of program (Wheelersburg Coach Steven) Ater has and what they are doing. But I think everybody is going to be able to compete on any given night. That includes us,” said the coach.
The coach continued by saying Northwest should shock some clubs this season.
“If a team overlooks us, I definitely think we can surprise some teams. Our guys will work hard and we’re not going to quit. I like where we are at,” said Smith.
Northwest will play Huntington and Whiteoak in the non-league — along with SOC I squads Sciotoville East, Clay, Notre Dame and Ironton St. Joseph.
“Hopefully, we can win the games we are supposed to and the ones we’re not supposed to we can compete in at least and leave them up to any given night,” said Smith. “But I anticipate us playing well in a lot of games this year. I really do.”
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved