Coach Mike Brevard likes to adopt a slogan each season with North Side.
Year 1 was Set the Standard.
Year 2 was Lay the Foundation.
Year 3 is Build the Belief.
Translation? It’s time to start filling up that win column.
“A wise person once told me when you’re not winning football games, you learn how to lose football games,” Brevard said. “I wouldn’t say we have turned the corner, but more like we are creeping around the corner.”
The Legends finished 2-8 last season, a surprising 52-49 victory over Bishop Luers being the highlight. But North also played tough teams tight into the second half, particularly Snider and Bishop Dwenger, before fading.
The goal this year is to play a complete four quarters and finish out some victories.
The offense has some experience at the skill positions. Ronald Collins III is back for his third season at varsity quarterback. The junior threw for 11 touchdowns and 865 yards last year, although his completion percentage was just 38%.
“As a freshman, Ronald was 14 years old and 150 pounds, he ended up breaking his collarbone,” Brevard said. “One thing I have definitely learned is that, no matter how talented a player is, 14 is still 14.”
Collins will have help in the offensive backfield with senior running back Alex Holliday-Robinson (pictured), who finished as the leading rusher in the SAC last year. His 1,214 yards rushing and seven touchdowns came behind a strong offensive front that will have to replace some big guys, including second-team All-SAC selection Arvonta Taylor.
“This year, a lot of teams are going to key on Alex,” Brevard said. “We want to use Alex everywhere (on the field).”
The Legends also welcome back their two leading receivers in senior Auntral Franklin (15 receptions, 273 yards, 4 TDs) and sophomore Jordan Turner (14 receptions, 218 yards, 4 TDs).
Defensively, Theo Redmond is back at strong safety after a strong junior season that saw him put up 91 tackles, including seven for loss. He will be joined in the defensive backfield by fellow senior Jaylen Harris (63 tackles, 2 INTs).
At linebacker, junior Lahshon Miller (43 tackles, 5 TFL) will be looked upon to lead a young position group.
North Side will also be young up front, perhaps the biggest question mark on the team.
“We have some new pups along the defensive line, but defense is just so much easier to catch on quickly than offense,” Brevard said, “The new guys we are putting up there have learned their fronts and stunts and we have confidence in their ability.”
Once again, the Legends open up with powerhouses Snider and Bishop Dwenger. While some may see that as a negative, Brevard believes it will help his team in the long run.
“We kind of like having them early, it allows us to see where we are at as a program,” Brevard said. “If you are a 4-1 team and see Snider in Week 6 and they destroy you, you kind of question where you are truly at.
“We can gauge where we are at in Week 1 and 2 and make our adjustments from there.”
Brevard hopes that his team can take that next step towards being a game opponents circle on the schedule, instead of simply overlooking them.
Build the Belief.
North Side is just 2-18 overall over the last two years, but the arrow is definitely pointing up. Coach Brevard and his approach to rebuilding the program feels similar to Derrick Moore’s reclamation project at Wayne. The Generals won just two games over Moore’s first two years, then won 14 times over the next two seasons.
The pieces are there for the Legends to reach .500.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
Brevard is trying to temper the enthusiasm around his program, and for good reason. Many pundits are predicting the Legends to be the biggest riser in the SAC standings in 2019. It could happen, but this team has to prove it on the field first.
WEEK 3 vs. CARROLL
North got destroyed 51-8 last year by a Chargers team that won just three games. No matter what happens in the first two weeks against Snider and Bishop Dwenger, a home date with the Chargers feels like a “prove it” type game for the Legends. Win this one and a .500 season is possible. Lose it and things could snowball with games against Wayne, Bishop Luers and Homestead in Weeks 4-6.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Ronald Collins III, junior, quarterback
After some questions in the offseason over who would be the QB at North due to the arrival of a key transfer, Collins is firmly back behind center. He has the athletes around him to put up some big numbers, but he must take a significant step forward in his development.
If Collins can get solid protection up front, make some plays outside of the pocket and complete around 60% of his passes, the Legends’ chances at making some noise in the SAC grow considerably.