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Football 2014: North Redskins

Published August 17 at 2 p.m. | Last updated August 15 at 11:17 a.m.

Turning around a program like North, which hasn’t won more than three games in a season in the last decade, is an uncommon challenge.

So coach Joe Belden, entering the second season of his second stint at the helm, figures the solution must be uncommon, as well.

Belden and his staff have come up with unique terms as rallying points for the players. Sisu, a Finnish term that Belden came across during the offseason, has become the team’s motto. It doesn’t have an English translation, but Belden says that the gist is sisu is about displaying courage in the face of adversity.

“It may sound crazy to everybody else, but we’re doing a couple of things a little uncommon,” Belden said. “We want to do the things that not everybody else is doing. We’re telling the kids that we’re training like the uncommon man. We want to be more mentally and physically tougher than our opponent when adversity strikes.”

It’s a gimmick, but the team has accepted it as something that must be done this season. No one on the team has experienced a great deal of success, so they are banding together and have become determined to learn how to win and win consistently.

“When you’re down and things aren’t going the way you want, who’s going to step up and come through adversity?” senior Ray Robinson said. “Who’s going to step up and lead and who’s going to do something that another person wouldn’t do on the field to help their team? That’s what sisu is all about.”

As far as on the field play is concerned, Robinson’s shift to quarterback has generated the most excitement among the team. Having the speedy 5-foot-8 senior at quarterback allows the Redskins to start every play with the ball in the hands of their best runner.

Jose McDonald returns at tailback and should pair nicely with Robinson. Demetrius Solis-Martin and Jared Faunce are talented receivers, while Xander Williams, Keyon Childress, and Damian Diaz are back in the secondary.

Belden remains committed to a platoon system, as to limit players that play on both sides of the ball. Belden thinks that shift will pay dividends this season.

“We feel like that allows our kids to practice at one position and get very good at one position,” he said. “We’re still working on building enough depth, but I think we’re going to have a lot of these kids ready to go on Friday nights.”

North has always fielded enticing prospects at the skill positions, and that hasn’t changed this season, but the problem has been finding enough depth for the line.

That remains the biggest on-field concern, but what Belden is worried about now has nothing to do with the Xs and Os.

“In order for us to get the corner turned here at North, we have to learn how to deal with adversity better,” Belden said. “It’s all about changing the attitude here, and I think we’re headed in the right direction.”

A LOOK AT NORTH

Coach: Joe Belden, sixth season, 13-35

League: City League

Last season: 1-9

Last five seasons: 5-42

Projected 2014 playoff team? No

TOP SKILL PLAYERS

PlayerHt.Wt.Pos.Yr.
Ray Robinson5-8150QBSr.
Xander Williams5-9150CBSr.
Jose McDonald5-10180RBJr.
Damian Diaz5-10160SJr.

TOP LINEMEN

PlayerHt.Wt.Pos.Yr.
Matt Dunnegan6-0270CSr.
Marquel Thomas5-10270GJr.
Jaylen Howard5-10200GSo.
Hunter Shockley6-4220DEJr.

2013 RESULTS

OpponentScore
EastL,33-7
CarrollL,49-0
KapaunL,45-7
Great BendL,36-0
SoutheastL,14-7
WestL,46-15
SouthW,52-26
NorthwestL,43-0
CampusL,28-24
DerbyL,56-7

2014 SCHEDULE

DateOpponent
Sept. 5at South
Sept. 12West (at NW)
Sept. 19Northwest (at Heights)
Sept. 26at Great Bend
Oct. 2Carroll (at Heights)
Oct. 10Kapaun (at WSU)
Oct. 16East (at South)
Oct. 24Southeast (at Heights)
Oct. 31Junction City (at Heights)

Ray Robinson on North

What North does well: “I think the leadership this year is going to be at an all-time high. When the leaders are into it and everybody is positive, then the team gets behind it. I think everybody is really involved and we’re all talking to each other. Our coaching staff has done an amazing job. I love it.”

What has to improve: “We have to work on our lines. We’re going to be solid there, but that’s been a real struggle for us in the past. We’ve got some good guys there and some good coaches, so I think once we get those guys going, then that’s what’s going to make the team go.”