Northgate ushers in new coach, returns to old home
Northgate welcomes a new coach and a return to an old, familiar setting.
After being transplanted without their home field last year, the Flames look to rebound from a two-win season under Mike Fulmore, who was hired in mid-June. The former Wilkinsburg boss replaced T.J. Wiley, who departed in June to take over the start-up program at Vincentian.
Northgate played home games last season at J.C. Stone Field in North Park while the school district works to replace the decayed, torn-down lights at Alumni Field. But the Flames this year will return to the longtime downtown Bellevue stadium for their home games -- albeit on Saturday afternoons.
“It meant too much to the community. They wanted to see (home games),” Fulmore said. “Hopefully, we are going to get the go-ahead to start planning for lights next year to be reinstalled. We want to bring Friday night football back.”
Northgate would also like to return to the success of two years ago, when the Flames enjoyed one of the best seasons in program history, going 10-2 and reaching the WPIAL Class A semifinals.
The youthful Flames slipped to 2-7 last season, as the lowest-scoring team in Big 7 play at 12.9 points per game.
Senior running back/linebacker Anthony Barbarino said a lack of team unity was the biggest difference between 2016 and ’17.
“That definitely is what killed us last year,” he said. “Chemistry. Everyone was separated. There was really no team bond. It’s total opposite this year. It just seems like a really good group of kids. I really think we are primed for a comeback.”
Fulmore, who went 6-30 from 2012-15 at now-closed Wilkinsburg, spent the past two seasons as an assistant at Charleroi and had accepted a position on the staff at Sto-Rox when the Northgate job unexpectedly opened.
“I was looking for a home,” he said. “I was ready.”
With the midsummer hiring, Fulmore scrambled to put together a staff, tabbing former Carrick assistant Alan Bowden as his offensive coordinator.
“We struggled a little bit finding coaches, but I was fortunate to find some good guys to come on staff,” Fulmore said. “I really didn’t pay attention to the lateness of my hiring. That’s not an excuse.”
Fulmore and his staff take over a team with typical Class A numbers -- about 25 players on the roster -- as well as experienced upperclassmen and quality athleticism.
“We’re going to be like any single-A team,” Fulmore said. “We recognize who our ball players are, and we are focused on getting them the ball.”
Junior Christian Davin returns as the starting quarterback. The 5-foot-11, 170-pounder threw for 563 yards and four touchdowns -- and eight interceptions -- last season. Other key players in Fulmore’s pro-style multiple-attack offense will be senior running backs Barbarino (58-304, team high 5 TDs), Eric Hogan (52-231) and Dylan White.
“We have a really nice combination of guys,” Fulmore said.
They will run behind a line anchored by senior Zack Reskovac (6-2, 190), junior center Nate O’Mara (6-1, 215) and junior Clayton Cooper.
Barbarino, who is receiving Division II and D-III interest, spearheads the defense. The 5-10, 175-pounder is confident as the Flames try to reach the playoffs for only the third time in the past 15 seasons.
“Last year was definitely a rebuilding season,” Barbarino said. “This year reminds me a lot of that 10-2 season. It’s way more junior- and senior-oriented.”
The roster also includes senior wide receiver/cornerback Mike Thomas, who suffered a season-ending broken clavicle last year; junior Heman Darjee, a native of Nepal who is regarded as one of the area’s top kickers; and junior Elise Brown, one of the few female football players in the WPIAL.
“This team is not destitute,” Fulmore said. “They know what it’s like to win. You don’t really have to teach them. You just have to light that fire under them. And, you know, we’re the Flames. That fire is easy. You just go to get a spark in them, and that flame will grow.”
Coach: Mike Fulmore
2017 record: 2-7, 2-6
All-time record: 205-206-7
Date, Opponent, Time
8.25, at Perry, 1 p.m.
8.31, at McGuffey, 7 p.m.
9.8, at OLSH*, 7 p.m.
9.15, Union*, noon
9.22, Cornell*, 10 a.m.
9.28, at Sto-Rox*, 7 p.m.
10.6, Springdale, noon
10.12, at Rochester*, 7:30 p.m.
10.19, Bishop Canevin*, 7 p.m.
10.27, Laurel*, noon
*Class A Big 7 Conference game
Passing: Christian Davin
42-73, 563 yards, 4 TDs
Rushing: Surron Adams*
71-449 yards, 4 TDs
Receiving: Jacian Sustayta
22-404 yards, 2 TDs