By Joanna Chadwick
The naysayers weren’t exactly quiet about the prospects for Northwest football in 2019.
Lose Breece Hall to Iowa State where the running back has excelled as a freshman?
And lose Marcus Hicks to Oklahoma?
How could Northwest ever possibly recover.
Northwest is back in the Class 5A title game — the Grizzlies will play Mill Valley at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Pittsburg State — with a 12-0 record and has beaten opponents by an average of 43 points.
“People were saying Northwest wouldn’t be very good because of the guys we lost, but they guys were who were lifting and developing through our program are here and are some of our leaders,” coach Steve Martin said. “We tested our process and development in the weight room and on and off the field. We’ve done the little things to stay in contention, to stay in as contenders.”
Northwest beat Maize in the 5A semifinals 80-42. The Grizzlies had 891 offensive yards, 43 first downs.
“Our offense got challenged,” Martin said. “Our offensive line, we challenged them that Maize was going to be moving all over the place, that we would have to lock and load it. We didn’t think they played as well against Bishop Carroll, assignment-wise.”
More than 700 of those yards came on the ground because “we wanted to keep the ball out of their hands,” Martin said of Maize. “We wanted to physically impose our will on them.”
Northwest has three 1,000-yard rushers yet again — senior quarterback Reagan Jones has 1,510 passing yards and 1,556 rushing yards, while junior running back Julius Bolden has 1,526 rushing yards. Senior running back Jamar Martin has 993 rushing yards.
The defense has been special, too.
While Northwest gave up nearly 28 points a game in 2018, the Grizzlies have scored 639 and allowed 129 (10.8 per game).
It will be an interesting matchup with Mill Valley, which is similar to Northwest.
“Look in a mirror and there’s a reflection of them and us, and us and them,” Martin said. “They have a strong running game, and defense that has proven over the year to put pressure on teams. They rely on running the ball and stopping the run. They are a formidable opponent.”
But so is Northwest.
And the Grizzlies are eager for their first football title.
“Last year, losing that game, I remember everyone being very emotional,” Martin said. “Saying, ‘we’re not letting it happen again. We’re winning this thing.’ Reagan hugging me and saying, ‘we’re going to win it next year.’
“It’s cool to see the guys believe in a process and chip away and attack the postseason and get here. Obviously they’re playing in the estate title game. They didn’t just say it and didn’t just talk about it. They put in the work and the action to actually get here and back to the game. It’s impressive.”