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Chasing a Championship: Norwayne football

7:26 PM, Nov 15, 2012   |    comments
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With two minutes and 51 seconds remaining on the game clock in the 2011 Division IV football state championship game, Norwayne High School senior quarterback Adam Wallace gathered his teammates and gave his "No Doubts" motivational speech that has now become part of the mystique surrounding the team's first state title.

After the impromptu pep talk, Wallace guided the Bobcats down the field for the go-ahead score to give Norwayne the 48-42 win and the school's first-ever team state championship.

Wallace is now gone, having graduated last spring, but the message that he delivered in the heat of the moment last December has helped the 2012 Bobcats gridiron team put together another record-setting season that it hopes doesn't end until this December.

"We talk about never doubting ourselves in any situation and making sure we leave 'No Doubts' that, win or lose, every time a team plays the Bobcats, they leave knowing they were just in a fight against a high-quality team," fourth-year head coach Joe Harbour said.

The Bobcats have done more than just prove themselves to be a good team this fall.  They've demonstrated they're one of the state's best for the second consecutive season.

Norwayne heads into Friday night's Region 13 championship game against Brookfield with a perfect 12-0 record. The Bobcats finished the regular season undefeated - a first in program history - and won the Wayne County Athletic League title outright.

Norwayne's high-powered offense, which is averaging 52.6 points per game, has been engineered by junior quarterback Joe Dreher and senior running back Jon Zimmerly. Dreher has thrown for 3,182 yards and 35 touchdowns while Zimmerly has rushed for 1,999 yards and 34 scores.

The Bobcats' stout defense, which is limiting opponents to an average of 7.7 points per contest, has been lead by seniors Chad Reed, Mitch Knieriem, Zimmerly and Logan Studer.

Norwayne outscored its first two playoff opponents - West Salem Northwestern and Youngstown Liberty - by a combined score of 102-14.

Harbour recently answered questions about his team and its quest this season to repeat as Division IV state champions for WKYC's usatodayhss.com Web site.

WKYC's usatodayhss.com Web site: What has been your team's motto this season?

Norwayne head football coach Joe Harbour: We did not really have any official slogan or anything printed on T-shirts, but some themes we talk a lot about are the concept of "Heart Power" and the never-quit approach in how we train, practice and play. We have also emphasized the themes of not being satisfied, not being complacent and that repeating requires even more. In conjunction with this, we have talked a lot about being ready for everyone's best shot since we now have targets on our backs. There is no way to surprise anyone anymore.

WKYC: What are three adjectives that describe your team and/or its play this season?

Harbour: Balanced, complete, experienced.

WKYC: What has been your team's greatest strength this season?

Harbour: Our greatest strength is our versatility, both in terms of schemes and athleticism. Offensively, we are equally dangerous with our run and passing game, and we're able to take advantage of whatever teams are not focusing on trying to take away. Defensively, we have been able to shut down both run and pass-oriented teams and make them attempt to do things they really do not want to do.

WKYC: What has been your team's greatest weakness this season?

Harbour: We do not have an incredible amount of experienced depth, at least relative to last year's team. We have not always gotten off to real fast starts offensively, especially in the last few games. However, once we get going, we do a great job of keeping it rolling. Also, we've had some inconsistent - not bad; just inconsistent - special teams' play, especially [extra points and kickoffs].

WKYC: What has been the high point of your team's season thus far?

Harbour: Completing the first-ever 10-0 regular season in school history on our way to an outright WCAL title and playoff birth.

WKYC: What was the low point of your team's season? What did your team learn from the experience?

Harbour: We have not really had one in terms of on-field performance, but could point to when we lost some key starters at various times. We had to move some guys around from their natural position and [they had to] learn to play in slightly different ways.

WKYC: Who are your team's leaders? What do they bring to the team?

Harbour: Our leadership, as with most teams, starts with our seniors; none more so than running back/defensive end Jon Zimmerly. Jon is an outstanding player and an even better year-round leader, always encouraging but also holding his teammates accountable for their training, practice-effort, behavior and academics. Other key senior leaders include Brady Berger and Caleb Barb. We also have juniors who do a great job helping to provide leadership, such as Joe Dreher and Kaleb Harris.

WKYC: Who has been your team's unsung hero(es) this season? Why?

Harbour: Our defense, in general, is very much our unsung hero, as it has been overshadowed by our record-setting offense. A couple of key defensive players who do not get a ton of attention outside of our team for doing their jobs so well are outside linebacker Logan Studer, defensive end Devin Sickle, cornerback Trevahn Beery and inside linebackers Caleb Barb and Chad Reed.

WKYC: What must happen for your team to make a deep playoff run?

Harbour: First and foremost, we need to continue to get healthier and stay healthy in terms of injuries. A couple of starters that were out have returned in weeks 9, 10 and 11, and we need for them to keep getting stronger and for everyone else to stay healthy. Secondly, we need to stay focused on the game at hand and the preparation for that game and to not get caught up looking ahead to a looming big-name opponent, potential rematch from last year's playoff run or worry about returning to a certain level, such as the regional finals, final four or state finals.

WKYC: When the season is long over, what will you remember most about this year's squad?

Harbour: After winning the state title last year in 2011, we lost a great group of seniors and not many people gave us much of a chance to achieve similar levels [of success] again this year, but these players came together, worked even harder than previous years, did not allow themselves to become complacent and - regardless of how the playoffs wind up - have achieved great things.

For more Northeast Ohio high school sports news, scores, photos and videos, visit usatodayhss.com/Cleveland.

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