The time is now for Northrop to break through. That is what they truly believe. Last season, they improved their win total to three after years upon years of two win seasons. They came close to beating both Wayne and Bishop Luers, who had stellar seasons.
As with their home field cohorts Snider, the question of how Northrop thrives on the new turf looms large. Northrop has consistently played fast and hard under head coach Jason Doerffler, so one would venture to guess that Spuller’s upgrade to full turf means big yardage.
“There is a lot of optimism. Not just the stadium, but we are getting a whole bunch of changes around the building,” Doerffler said. “We have new administration, we have a new turf field, we have new uniforms coming in. There is a lot of excitement around Northrop.”
Senior Jeremiah Green (176 carries for 831 yards, 13 touchdowns) will likely see his production grow while Northrop’s offense gears towards the run game and junior Damarius Cowen (225 yards) also returns to see some of the best experience for the Bruins coming on the ground. For a team that has grown accustomed to scoring in bunches, they may lean on this aspect the most offensively.
That is because no snap taker from 2018 will return this year. Instead, Dylan Hoot and TaQuay White were names Doerffler listed as competing for the quarterback job as of media day. Hoot was the junior varsity quarterback in 2018 and White is returning to the field after two seasons away. A third senior, Issa Tchari, could also get some snaps.
“We do look to get our running backs space. And that is what we have always done is run the ball by spreading it out and we just have to create numbers to our advantage,” Doerffler said.
Once that quarterback experience does grow, there is no shortage of prime targets. That starts with Qualen Pettus (pictured), who caught 18 passes last year but seven of them were for scores. That scoring percentage came because of the basketball crossover player’s high level athleticism and unique leaping ability. At 354 yards receiving, he is Northrop’s top returning receiver, but will be joined by Adrian Sewell (6 receptions, 117 yards).
Doerffler emphasizes that Sewell had a very strong summer and will return as one of Northrop’s very best players. State high jump qualifier Adrian Scott and another basketball crossover, Te’Noah Ridley, will add depth at the receiver position, where Doerffler thinks they could go up to seven players deep.
“We’ve got some athletes, in this class in particularly. Its an exciting time for sure,” Doerffler said.
The defense is filled with returning stoppers and it has many in the area pointing at this year as the one where the Bruins could stop points as well as they score them. Nigel Robertson (46 total tackles, 33 solo, four sacks) and Antoine Scott (45 total tackles, 40 solo) are big anchors to return as seniors. Jordan Young returns as an important starter at defensive tackle, Jayden Smith will be valuable and White will play some outside linebacker.
“Every year, everyone asks about our defense. Defense we see as a strength to our team,” Doerffler said. “We feel like we have great players who are physical and get after it on defense.”
The whole secondary will return from 2018 team with Ridley seeing time at cornerback and Vaughn Crews as a guy to watch at strong safety.
Northrop can score. That has not changed. In 2018, they had just one game in single digits and only twice did they score less than 20 points. They put up games of 40 and 43 a year ago and while Bailey Meerzo isn’t walking back through the door to lead those types of efforts, the Doerffler system is battle tested.
This team could out athlete a lot of teams and after coming close to more success last year, the hunger grows each year. With upgrades to their locker room and playing surface, it helps confidence and it makes kids proud to play for Northrop.
WHY NOT HIGHER?
Save for a major win against Carroll last year, the Bruins can’t be happy with a lack of defensive consistency even when they expect it to be better. The SAC is stacked and Northrop has the athletes to run with almost any team. But stopping athletes from scoring is hard and the conference is high on stellar performers.
“We are used to getting into shootouts and scoring a lot of points. We will want to win games with defense,” Doerffler emphasized.
Northrop needs to prove they can stop those points. They know it. We know it. And they will get a chance to make a major statement about their defense quickly.
Week 1 vs. Homestead
Speaking of a chance to make quick statements, Northrop’s week one opponent means a lot. Last year, after rain and lightning delays galore, the Bruins kept pace with Homestead for a very long time before falling too far in the hole. Sustaining against the highly respected Spartans would be the best way to christen their new home turf. And after all, you certainly don’t want Snider to be the first team to win at that new Spuller Stadium if you are the Bruins. So week one is when they need to get it done.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Nigel Robertson, senior, defensive end
Robertson is a hard hitter with a good football mind. He was the leader in tackles a year ago for a reason, but perhaps more important is his leadership. Robertson is going to be the anchor of that defense that everyone will be watching. He will lead this Bruin group by example and verbally.