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New and improved North Central takes on Ferris

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North Central coach Brian Gardner looks over his offensive line during practice (Photo: SWX) North Central coach Brian Gardner looks over his offensive line during practice (Photo: SWX)
North Central traded in its wing offense for a new-fangled spread offense (Photo: SWX) North Central traded in its wing offense for a new-fangled spread offense (Photo: SWX)

SPOKANE, Wash. - One of the best teams in the state will open the 2009 season on Thursday against a team that believes it's better than its zero-win performance last year.  Ferris against North Central at Joe Albi Stadium - a game heard live on SWXRightNow.com.

 LIVE! Friday Night Lights


North Central
vs.
Ferris

Thurs., Sep. 3
6:30 p.m.
on www.SWXRightNow.com/Prep

Ferris, ranked No. 2 or No. 4 depending on which preseason poll you look at, is stacked again and could make another run at the 4A state championship this year.  Led by senior quarterback Connor Halliday, the Saxons return 12 starters from last year's team that lost to Skyline in the 4A semifinal game (Skyline went on to win the state championship). 

"Connor is still maturing and growing," Ferris coach Jim Sharkey told the Spokesman-Review this week.  "He's 20 pounds heavier and with that has a little more arm strength."

Sharkey says his team is deeper and stronger than it has been over the past couple of years.

North Central is a team that has nowhere to go but up.  After an 0-8 season last year, the Indians have a new head coach in Brian Gardner.  But the "newness" doesn't stop there.  Gardner, an assistant at the varsity level for NC for the past four years, has revamped the team's entire approach.  With a new quarterback in Zac Hill, he's traded the wing offense for a spread.  And he's walked away from the traditional 4-3 defense to embrace a slick, new 3-5 attack.

"We haven't had very much success with the D-line over the past few years, as far as getting into the backfield and sacks," said Gardner, emphasizing the fact that his team needs to be better at tackling.  "I'm trying to think of ways we can mix it up a little bit and get them running and pin them back a little bit."

The Indians are a faster team, but they're also stronger.  They attended a speed and conditioning camp over the summer, and they hired a personal trainer for the team.  Gardner said it's paying off

"After this summer and the workout - I can run these kids all day and they're still going," he said. "They're conditioning is tons better.  They're in great shape and that's hopefully going to last us the whole football game instead of being petered and dead by the end of the first quarter."

Gardner's goal for the team this year isn't to win a set number of games, win the GSL or make it to the postseason.  Instead, he simply wants his team to compete.  Nothing fancy.

"We're starting out with Ferris, ranked No.2 in the state in some polls, we're fine with that," Gardner said.  "We hope to surprise some teams, maybe come out and get a W, maybe get that second spot for the 3As in the playoffs.  We're fine with being in that bottom category.  We're hoping to turn some heads.

"We're done with last year. I told the kids we're going to wash our hands clean and start over right now.  We don't have kids missing practice.  We got kids here and committed. I think we're gonna surprise some people.  That's a prediction."
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