The most difficult aspect of Mike Brevard’s program-building project at North Side doesn’t come on the football field.
The no-nonsense approach that Brevard has used since he took the job at North last year has had its fair share of casualties – players who oozed talent but could not do the work in the classroom or carry themselves in a mature manner off the field.
Brevard says he could have taken the easy route and chased wins with problem kids. Instead, he starting building from the ground up with kids that matched his expectations. But that doesn’t mean it was easy to say goodbye to some.
“Sometimes, you can see these guys’ future,” said Brevard about some of those who he had to let go. “A lot of these kids, you take football away and you know they are going to go down a bad path.
“I knew some of these kids weren’t going to make it.”
For sophomore quarterback Ronald Collins III, some of those let go were friends.
“We have to get out a lot of the toxins,” said Collins. “We wanted to build a team around good character.”
Brevard went about doing just that. The Ben Davis High School and University of Saint Francis graduate refused to take short cuts, committing to the process of building a team up the right way.
Most of the time, the right way is not the quick way.
The Legends went 0-10 in Brevard’s first season. Just one game was decided by single digits, a 14-6 sectional loss to Elkhart Memorial.
Despite the winless season, work continued. Brevard and his staff doubled down on their philosophies. Players bought in or moved on. No exceptions were made.
“It was rough taking over. I came in with expectations for the kids that they hadn’t had for awhile,” Brevard said. “There was a lot of push back. We could have easily gave in and won a couple games by doing things differently. In my heart, I felt like what I was doing was right – holding people accountable and teaching the game of life through football.”
Entering 2018, there was talk that North Side was an improved team. But a brutal early-season schedule left the Legends with an 0-4 record heading to Bishop Luers last week. There was no doubt that North had gotten better, hanging for awhile with the likes of Snider and Bishop Dwenger, but compete with the Knights?
“I read a ton of Jon Gordon books. There is one (Win in the Locker Room) with Mike Smith, the former coach of the Falcons, that talks about momentum,” Brevard said. “When you’re 0-2 or 2-0, usually that next game creates a streak. Either you then go on to lose a lot or win a lot. I knew it would be tough getting a win being 0-4.”
Instead of turning on each other and turning the page on 2018, North Side rallied around itself, largely due to the players that Brevard kept around, players he trusted to work hard when things weren’t going right. When the Legends jumped in front of Luers 14-0 early last Friday, his team started truly believing.
“Every week we think it’s our night to win,” Collins III said. “We always believe. But when we jumped out on Luers, when we were headed to the sideline we were like, ‘This is our night.’”
The Legends needed 52 points, 328 yards from Alex Holliday-Robinson and a final defensive stop late to prevail over Luers. The epic win ended a 20-game losing streak, gave Brevard his first head coaching win and validated all the decisions and commitments made over the last 16 months since he was hired.
“Because we went 0-10 and had lost 20 in a row, people were quick to go on social media to bash our coaches, players and the kids,” Brevard said. “Finally getting a win shows off to people that we can be successful.”
North Side is far from a finished product. Its defense is allowing over 36 points per game. Collins is completing just 36 percent of his passes. The schedule is still daunting. Yet there is promise. Holliday-Robinson is just a junior. The top four receivers are all underclassmen, including a freshman to watch in Jordan Turner.
It’s a slow process. But it’s the right process with the correct man at the helm.
“His leadership as a coach is a lot better than last year,” Collins III said. “He is better at interacting with us. He is growing as a coach as we are growing as a team.”