It took the Sylvania Northview football team the first three weeks of the 2015 season to win as many games as they won during the entire 2014 campaign.
That brutal 3-7 finish last year was the result of head coach Doug Downing’s first season at the helm of the Wildcat program. Northview finished last in the Northern Lakes League with a 1-6 mark against conference opponents.
The Wildcats kicked 2015 off with three straight victories, defeating Waite on the road before returning home for wins over Clay and Bowsher. Northview fell 29-14 in their first conference game of the season against Anthony Wayne, and then lost a close contest against Napoleon before being blown out by Bowling Green on October 2.
So after six weeks, the Wildcats sit at .500. Though they have fell into a rough patch with the beginning of conference play, their strong opening has kept them alive heading into October. It is also the best opening the program has had since 2007, when the black and yellow kicked things off with four straight victories.
“The kids are believing in what they’re doing and what’s going on,” Downing explained. “The biggest thing is that we were in most of the games last year, all except for one that was a blow-out. Obviously the positive attitude, the work ethic you try to instill in those kids, to keep moving forward and keep buying in.
“It is a process. We’re embracing that process of learning how to win, changing the culture and that aspect. But bottom line is the kids have done a nice job and that’s what we’ve seen the benefits of this year.”
Northview’s early success this season didn’t go unnoticed by the school’s student body.
“Obviously any time you win everybody jumps on board,” Downing said. “It’s a good excitement. There is enthusiasm in the school and in the locker room, things like that. Kid’s are anxious and excited to go out and play.”
For Northview’s senior quarterback, Brendan Pierson, the early success was entirely unexplored territory. The last time Northview finished the season with a winning record was 2006, when the Wildcats went 6-4.
“There’s more of a family atmosphere,” Pierson explained when describing the difference between the 2014 squad and this year’s team.
“[We’re] playing together as a team, showing up every day to practice to improve each day that we’re out there. We’ve got a positive attitude and a great work ethic.” As Northview’s three-game losing streak illustrates, football is a week-to-week game. For the Wildcats, it’s not about simply improving upon last season’s record. It’s about creating a culture that turns the program into a consistent competitor.
To do that, they know they can’t rest on what they’ve already accomplished.
“We play one week at a time and that’s all we focus on, ”Downing explained. “We don’t focus on anything else but that. Whoever your next opponent is, the last game, you have to move through it and you have to get yourself ready to play each week.
“It’s been a team effort. I preach to them all the time that it’s not about individual play, it’s about team and going out and executing, working with the guy next to you. The more and more we can do that, the better and better we are going to be.”