Shane Carter has seen football success from the middle of the football field and from the sidelines. Carter, who took over as Northwestern’s head coach in late May, was a standout defensive back at Troy early last decade before rejoining the program as a freshman coach last year.
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The Trojans rank in the top 20 in the state for all-time wins and made the playoffs Carter’s senior season (2004) and last season. Before Carter joined Troy’s coaching staff last year, he frequently visited Miami East at the invitation of coach Max Current, who has turned the Vikings’ program into a consistent playoff contender.
With all the familiarity he had around successful high school programs, he was quickly able to gauge Northwestern’s culture over his first months on the job.
“It’s different,” Carter said. “But the previous staffs have left potential.”
The Warriors amassed a 22-18 record from 2012 to 2015 under Seth Whiting, who left last year to coach at Alliance. Carter’s already heard glowing stories from many people about what Whiting accomplished at the school. Before his arrival, the program had one winning season (2006) in the previous four decades.
The Warriors went 1-9 last year under Sam Johnson, who left last spring for a teaching position at Springboro.
Carter, who played football at Wisconsin, said he’s trying to instill a different mindset with the players. After a lackluster performance in an intrasquad scrimmage last Saturday, he extended the practice by a half hour.
“To continue winning at a consistent level, you can’t be lagging or lack energy,” Carter said. “I think the guys are responding already with a sense of urgency, but we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
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The team won’t be starting from scratch this year, as nine starters on both sides of the ball are back. One new starter will be quarterback Chris Hart, who has a lead over senior Gage Voorhees.
“I’d say Chris Hart is our clear No. 1 right now, but Gage is a strong backup,” Carter said. “He’s a senior and knows our offense and is able to jump in there and give us some good reps.”
Voorhees will see playing time at other positions, including punter. Two other players at skill positions that have stood out to Carter are sophomore Jalen Minney and junior Eli Berner.
Southeastern at Northwestern
Fri., Aug. 25, 7 p.m.
“Jalen’s got a lot of talent and is a hard worker,” Carter said. “He’s a young kid, but he’s learning. He’ll play both sides of the ball. He really looks to tackle well, which I’m excited about. Eli Berner played quarterback last year and will play slot and a little bit of running back this year. He’s definitely one of the more athletic kids.”
If the depth on the lines holds up, Carter believes the Warriors can have a winning season.
Strong lines: One of Northwestern’s strengths should be the offensive and defensive lines. Junior Adam Riedinger (6-foot-3, 300 pounds) heads up the group, and Carter believes he has college potential. Other key lineman include junior Blake Jamison and senior Ryan Breakall.
“Our line coach Brian Stevenson has done a great job with these guys, including last year,” Carter said. “We’ve got some tough guys up front that I think will give us a great look. We’ve got great senior leadership up front, and I think the strength and depth of our team will be with the offensive and defensive lines.”
Spread is back: Carter has removed the power football schemes on offense that Johnson used. The Warriors will look more like they did under Whiting and utilize spread formations to get the ball to running backs and receivers in space. On defense, Northwestern will use a 4-3 scheme.
Coaching staff: Stevenson and Jerry Glass are among several longtime assistant coaches that are back. One new coach is Tom Heffelfinger, who assisted with Carter on Troy’s undefeated freshman team last year.
“One thing I learned being an alum of Troy and coaching there last year is the importance of practicing in the right way,” Carter said. “I’ve brought a practice schedule over here that hopefully allows the kids to get ready for games.”
The Warriors open the season on Aug. 25 at Taylor Field against Southeastern.
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