The Power of Family Despite loss, the Huskie football team takes away newfound feelings of brotherhood from game in Massillon, Ohio.

The fall season at Naperville North High School is categorized by one event: football. Every Friday, the hallways of the school are buzzing with excitement for the upcoming game that night. Whether it be at home or away, a winning or losing season, Huskie fans never fail to pack the stadium.

Upon checking the Dawg Pound’s twitter account last week, people saw the lack of a theme for Friday night’s game, or more accurately, a lack of mentioning a game Friday night at all. Fans figured that week was the team’s one off-week of the season.

However, there was a game on Sept. 13. At 7 P.M. - approximately 415 miles away - the Huskies kicked off against the Perry Panthers of Massillon, Ohio.

The day began at 5 am on a dreary Friday morning outside of Naperville North. One by one, players slumped out of their cars, half asleep and shielding themselves from the rain, to grab breakfast and load on to the busses.

Unexpectedly, the bus proved to be important down time for the team. Junior defensive lineman Ethan Hilgert felt that he was able to connect with players he typically would not get a chance to talk with.

“I got to sit next to one of my teammates [on the bus] who I don’t really get to talk to a lot, Flynn [Peters], which makes the whole experience even more memorable,” Hilgert said.

The first leg of the trip, which took four and a half hours, ended at the University of Toledo for stretching and a walk through. The team was able to utilize the school’s indoor practice facility, giving the players a taste of what practicing as a collegiate athlete would be like.

Next for the Huskies was a stop at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. The team was greeted by a personalized message on the video board outside the venue, given a private room to eat in, access to two Hall of Fame videos, and time to view all of the exhibits. Senior captain and wide receiver Matt Maschmeier thought both of these unique experiences contributed to a stronger team dynamic.

“Toledo was awesome and Canton was an amazing experience that not many people get to have, and I think it’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever been a part of,” Maschmeier said.

After a short drive from the Hall of Fame, the Huskies arrived at Perry High School. The atmosphere was electric. The Perry fans were hosting tailgates, music was playing from the stadium, and the marching band and cheerleaders were warming up, creating a truly picturesque image of American football. It was clear that the town of Massillon rallied around their football team, as families, friends and community members packed the stands to celebrate the finest graduated athletes from Perry High School at their ‘Hall of Fame’ night. With a small - yet faithful - group of North family members who had made the trip east settling into the visitor stands, the Huskies emerged from the locker room.

Their walk out exemplified the bond the team was striving to create. In two lines, lead by captains Maschmeier and Anthony Gabrione, the players held hands with the person across from them.

After a brief dance interlude of ‘‘Dancing Queen” by Abba, the Huskies took the field.

The Perry offense was dominant. Junior Josh Lemon and senior Dion Cundiff were instrumental in running the ball for the Panthers and broke through the Huskie defense. While the Huskies hung on in the first half, the speed of the Panthers proved to be too much, and they pulled away in the second.

The Huskies struggled offensively, with quarterback Gabrione, citing three interceptions and instances of miscommunication. Despite these obstacles, the Huskies were able to score two touchdowns, both from Maschmeier, and did so rushing and receiving. Head Coach Sean Drendel was proud of the fight the team showed, but believes a few key players missing and inconsistency from the team negatively impacted the Huskies.

“We were missing some back ups for other players and it hurts,” Drendel said. “We did some good things in times just not enough.”

One of the highlights for the Huskies both in Massillon and throughout the beginning of the season has been the offensive line. Gabrione said he valued how hard the line has worked and how effective their play has been.

“Our O-line stepped up a lot this year and they’ve given me a lot of time to control the ball,” Gabrione said.

The Huskies had a rough start to the season, with this 35-13 loss to Perry dropping the team to 0-3. However, the team is remaining optimistic and focusing on the rest of the season.

“Just use it as motivation to push forward, keep looking down the schedule, and trying to win every game we can,” junior linebacker Adam Sturtz said.

Drendel specifically wants the team to focus on the remainder of their Dupage Valley Conference games and on using those to propel the team forward.

“We’re gonna try to regroup and get ready for the conference,” Drendel said. “We can still be conference champs. As crazy as it sounds at 0-3, but you only have to win your conference games.”

Losing is never easy, especially when the team traveled such a long distance. However, the experience the players shared was invaluable and improved the repertoire between an already tight-knit group.

From the early morning bus ride, to practicing at the University of Toledo, to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the team never lost their ever-present sense of camaraderie and family.

The key to success for this group is never losing sight of what is really important.

“We’ve already established a good family this year - better than the last few years that I’ve been a part of the team - I feel like it just keeps getting stronger each week," Gabrione said.

The team will continue their season against the Waubonsie Valley Warriors at home on Friday at 7 p.m.


Megan Cablk