McDERMOTT — The 2020 season saw the Northwest Mohawks football program excel to new heights.
It was an abnormal six-game regular season schedule, but Northwest made the most of it by winning the program’s first outright SOC I championship, playing in the OHSAA playoffs for the first time in program history, and defeating county foe Portsmouth in their opening round postseason game.
With a 16-team expanded playoff and a return to a 10-game schedule, Mohawks coach Bill Crabtree is looking for his team to return — and excel — to its’ winning form.
“Even getting to play Bishop Ready, the experience of it was good for us and I think we’ll be more comfortable in that situation this year. Kind of upset with everyone making the playoffs last year because for the first time in school history, we would have made it at eight teams. Now we want to get in and put on a show once we’re there.”
Northwest graduated just six seniors from their 6-3 campaign a year ago and will field a team of 42 players this fall, including a 10-man senior class leading the way.
Brayden Campbell, Evan Lintz, Alex Baer, Wyatt Brackman, Connor Lintz, Waylon McGlone are the Mohawks’ returning all-Southern Ohio Conference team members from a season ago.
Campbell was the co-offensive player of the year in the league and is nearing Northwest rushing records as a will-be four-year starter.
Crabtree says they, and other returning upper-classmen are poised to make an immediate impact on the field after a full offseason in the weight room.
“He (Campbell) might be the best running back we’ve had in school history. Alex Baer is a force right now, had a phenomenal, phenomenal off-season in the weight room. The agility he has is unreal for a kid his size. The kids have been working, we’ve had really good attendance and participation in the off-season. The kids that want to be here are here,” he said.
Austin Newman returns as the Mohawks’ senior quarterback and will be starting for the fourth-year in a row. His coach relayed that his striving to get better has resulted in changes in Newman’s game — in the weight room and on the field.
“Austin Newman looks like a different kid this year. He’s turned into the type of senior you’d expect him to be, doing everything you could ask for,” he said.
Northwest has nine players in its’ freshman class, many of which Crabtree believes will be challenging for starting positions as of their early practices.
Their challenging has subsequently created a strong amount of competition between Northwest’s seasoned upperclassman and those hoping to increase their playing time.
“We’ve got some younger kids who are pushing the older guys for spots right now. And they’re built for it — they’re not your typical freshman,” Crabtree said. “The fun thing about it is that they’re challenging themselves. All these guys we’re talking about, their season ended last year and they’ve been in the weight room since.”
Northwest opens their non-league schedule with a road trip Southeastern in week one. They’ll host McClain and Huntington in weeks two and three and will travel to former SOC I opponent Oak Hill in week four.
A rematch of an anticipated rivalry between themselves and Valley will prelude their league schedule in week five.
Then, the Mohawks will begin their title defense of their outright league title from a season ago.
A set up for a third-straight final week winner-take-all league title game between Northwest and Symmes Valley isn’t something that would surprise the third-year coach Crabtree.
“Symmes Valley’s been an Achilles heel for us, but we got by them last year,” Crabtree said. “I’m sure they’ll come out here ready to roll and Rusty (Webb) will have them ready to go.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 370-0713 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved