North Augusta at Northwestern 7:30 p.m.

Plenty for the Trojans to talk about

bmccormick@heraldonline.comNovember 28, 2013 

Northwestern’s football coaching staff has had to counter talk of championships and expectations outside of its circle with as much, if not more, talk within its circle.

BRET MCCORMICK — bmccormick@heraldonline.com

Northwestern football coach Kyle Richardson might have thought he was in a safe place at the Tri-County Coaches Association’s weekly meeting in Richburg, earlier this month. He could be forgiven for thinking that in the back room of The Front Porch restaurant he would be able to find some respite from the bends-inducing pressure of coaching an undefeated, nationally ranked state championship contender.

But these were his fellow coaches, some of whose teams had been dealt losses by the unscathed, 13-0 Trojans. So they ribbed him and prodded at almost every chance they got.

“We all know Kyle’s team is gonna win a state championship...” one York County coach said. Everyone laughed as Richardson squirmed.

The other coaches from around the area were happy to pass the daily pressures of their jobs off on another coach, at least for an hour or so. It’s a wonder that Richardson and his players are still visible, so considerable is the heap of pressure piled upon them.

“I’ve got a great coaching staff and they’ve done a great job of just keeping the kids focused on one game at a time,” said Richardson. “Obviously, we talk about it all the time because everybody else talks about it. As much talking that goes on the outside, from media and fans and all that, we have to counter that with probably twice as much talking on the inside, inside the four walls – ‘that stuff don’t matter, that stuff don’t matter, stay focused on what we’re doing’ – and as the wins have rolled in, it’s gotten a lot more difficult to counter all of the outside talk.”

Per usual custom, Richardson has muzzled his players during the Trojans’ playoff run. Though that tact may not delight the media – and it doesn’t – Richardson and his team pay little mind. They are laser-focused on the sole goal they’ve had all year: finishing out their undefeated season with a state championship.

“It’s a senior group that’s got experience, playoff experience, and they’ve done a good job of getting these younger guys to stay focused on what we’ve got to do,” said the Trojans coach. “That has been the difference with this team. No offense to the media, but they don’t care to talk to the media, they don’t care about the newspaper and the TV shows and the radio shows.

“All they want to do is play football and win. That’s different when you’re talking about kids in this day and age.”

One topic that has repeatedly been brought up during Richardson’s daily talks that close his team’s practices is Northwestern’s 2010 undefeated state championship team. That group, led by an focused and talented bunch of seniors, laid down a path that this year’s team is happy to trod.

“We have talked a lot here recently about the 2010 team, and where they were at at the same time, and what they had to do,” said Richardson.

Only Trojan kicker Sully Foy played on that 2010 squad, but many of the same coaches are around, including Richardson who was an assistant to then-coach Jimmy Wallace.

“We’ve used all of that experience from the coaching staff to try and get it into the kids’ heads,” he said. “We’re still dealing with kids, 15, 16, 17-year-old kids and trying to get them to understand things and see the big picture is difficult at times.”

That’s an eternal problem coaches have faced, whether in 2010, 1965 or 2013. It’s that much harder when coupled with success.

“Every win in 2010 came more expectations, and the later we got into the season the higher the stakes were, the more the pressure was, and the bigger the fall I guess if you didn’t take care of business,” said Richardson.

The constant clamor has caused Richardson to try and create a Harry Nilsson-type situation – “everybody’s talking about me... I don’t hear a word they’re saying... only the echoes of my mind.” A mature group of Trojans have had no problem shirking the media attention, or refusing to believe that they can talk their way to a state title.

“This group of guys have done a good job so far of enjoying the wins, and then coming back to work on Sunday and Monday, and putting it behind them,” Richardson said. “We’re hoping they do the same this week.”

When the Trojans host North Augusta on Friday night, they’ll no doubt be the favorites, as they have been in probably every game this season. But Richardson will talk about that 2010 team one more time. That year, Northwestern upset the state’s No. 1 team, Goose Creek, on the road en route to an undefeated season and a state championship. Now that the Trojans are the No. 1 team and hosting North Augusta, Richardson wants to guard against a similar result going against his squad.

“North Augusta’s no different; they’ve got to go on the road and face a team that stands in the way of a state championship,” said Richardson. “Just like in 2010, we looked at Goose Creek as the people that were in the way of finishing off our dream season. Don’t think North Augusta’s not doing the same thing.”

Bret McCormick •  803-329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T

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