THE 2009 NORTHGATE FLAMES, pictured from left: first row -- Tony Ellis, Garrett Johnson, Rob Jones, John Girvin, Chase Staiger, A.J. Pagani, Fred Johnson, Dave Benedict; third row -- MacKenzie Quinn, Justin Mayhugh, Ken Dragone, Josh Dunn, J.D.Hoover, Frank Camello, Ben Barsh; second row -- coach Chris Lucas, Ryan Casselberry, Mark Wilson, Josh Heaney, Michael Gettings, Joe Barker, Pat Carr, Josh Schultheis, Chris Mangel, head coach Michael Pipak; first row bottom -- Jacob Luther, Justin Parra, Ron Schubert, Mitch Vacek, Jerry Kopelic, Joe Ellis, Josh Ellis; missing from photo -- coach Jeff Smith, coach Andy Cooper, coach Dan Sefick, coach Chuck Dunn, D.J. D’Amico, Jon Martin, Charon Goodwin, Antwane Brock, Angelo Pittrell, Connor Doscher, Rob Vickers, Will Morris, Rodney Payne, Delvin Reddick, Josh Anthony, Jordan Breauninger, Cody Walters.
After going 1-8 last season, the Northgate Flames varsity football team is determined to play hard until the final whistle of every game this year, something head coach Mike Pipak said the team had trouble with last fall.
Pipak, who is in his third season as head coach, said the Flames had a chance to win a lot of the games in the 2008 season, but the team was worn down and fell apart in the third quarter.
"We are emphasizing on finishing games," he said.
The Flames’ schedule will not make the season any easier though, as Pipak noted the difficulty of the section.
"We don't have an easy game," he said.
Pipak noted that the team got an early jump in preparing for the upcoming season, with training beginning in late January and continuing through the summer.
"We worked really hard in the summer on strength and conditioning," he said. "Hopefully that will carry over."
Pipak said that most of this year's starters have some experience, although not necessarily at the positions they’ll be playing this fall.
Taking over as quarterback this year is senior Joe Barker, whose prior playing time was spent primarily as a wide receiver.
On the receiving end of Barker's passes will be senior wideouts Mark Wilson, Mike Gettings and junior Josh Ellis, along with senior tight end Josh Schultheis.
Running the ball this year for the Flames will be senior Pat Carr and junior Mitch Vacek.
Holding the line and making holes for the backfield will be senior offensive linemen Ryan Castleberry and Chris Mangel, along with junior Chase Staiger. Pipak said that he also plans on working in junior Connor Doscher and sophomore Rodney Payne on the offensive line, and senior Josh Dunn at tight end.
The same offensive starters also will be starting defensively, Pipak said.
"A lot of kids will go both ways," he said.
The Flames will run a 4-3, defense with Barker, Wilson, Gettings, Vacek, and Ellis in the defensive backfield. Carr, Mangel and Castleberry will be the linebackers, with Staiger, Dunn, Schultheis, Doscher and Payne all seeing time on the defensive line.
The Flames open their season with a section game at home against Seton LaSalle on Sept. 4.
Pipak said that he believes Keystone Oaks will be the toughest team to beat this season. The Flames will have a chance to do that in their homecoming game on Sept. 25.