NORTH SIDE STEERS AREN'T DONE MAKING FOOTBALL HISTORY
The calls fill up coach’s mailbox, almost to the point where he can’t get back to everyone. Former teammates can’t help but text the guys right in the middle of it. The buzz in the community around North Side High School is unavoidable.
When a drought four decades in the making finally ends, you’re going to feel the love.
The Steers, back in the UIL football playoffs for the first time since 1979, are in the midst of creating something special. And they’re not done.
“They’re aware of the history,” North Side coach Joseph Turner said. “These guys are pretty level-headed. I want to say we’ve done a good job of making sure they keep their heads down and stay focused and keep working hard.
“After the season we can sit down and talk about the things we’ve accomplished, the games that we’ve won and the stuff we’ve done, but right now it’s about playing football. We’ll worry about the rest when the season is over.”
North Side qualified for a playoff spot from District 4-5A with one game left in the regular season. The Steers are 4-1 in league play and 5-4 overall. The regular season finale against Justin Northwest (5-4, 5-0) at 7 p.m. Thursday at Northwest Texas Stadium also happens to be for the district title.
“It’s been one of the most exciting seasons with come-from-behind wins,” Turner said. “Even the games we didn’t win, we came back in the second half and put up some good points. The kids have been playing pretty hard. Securing a playoff spot is real, but we’re playing for a district championship Thursday so that speak volumes.”
Turner didn’t expect to be playing for a title this season, admitting that reaching the playoffs was the team’s foremost focus. Now that they’re in this position, the narrative has changed.
“We want to accomplish all our goals and play hard and try to win this championship,” junior wide receiver Da’Wain Lofton said.
The Steers have made a habit of living on the edge this season. Three of their district wins have involved second-half comebacks, including rallying from 13 points down in the fourth quarter to beat Polytechnic 21-20 last week and lock down the playoff berth.
“We just stay focused and give everything we’ve got for the whole game,” junior quarterback Isaak Rosales said. “We have that mentality to never stop.”
Turner just wishes they’d get started a little sooner.
“They play better when their backs are against the wall,” he said. “I’m trying to get them to play better when their back is not against the wall. Just trying to get them to play better for all four quarters. We can’t keep coming from behind to win games because eventually that’s going to bite us.”
Standing on the practice field earlier this week, Turner took time to reflect on where the program has come since taking over as head coach in 2015 after two years as an assistant.
Now he’s hearing from former players from the last playoff team 40 years ago who are calling to offer their congratulations and share stories from back in their day. Turner has invited those past Steers to games and introduced them to the team.
The current Steers aren’t immune to what’s going on around them.
“Trying to make history and make the community proud,” Lofton said. “Our community has really supported us and come out to every game.”
Turner isn’t banking on a one-year blip on the radar. The Steers are poised to contend for years to come, with as many as 16 starters projected back next season. The lower grades at North Side and feeder middle schools are also seeing a surge in players and talent.
But that’s down the line. There’s still memories and milestones to create for the 2019 Steers.
“We’re already headed in the right direction,” Turner said. “Every year we’ve been doing pretty good. We’ve been sending boys to college and our program GPA is high. Our middle schools are winning games. It’s just one year at a time. We’ll worry about the rest later on.
“I’ll celebrate these guys big time when the season’s over. There’s going to be a big celebration.”