A halftime talk during a non-league game in October seemed to be the catalyst for one of best late-season runs for any football team in Kern County this fall.
North High football coach Norm Brown said he benched 10 starters for the first half against McFarland on Oct. 27 for a variety of reasons.
At halftime, Brown’s message was clear: “We explained that it’s not about the score. We said, ‘You’re so worried about the wins and losses and that’s not what we’re about.’ And that was late in the year.”
The Stars won, 20-14, in comeback fashion over the Cougars. The next week at home, the Stars handed Highland its first loss of the season in the regular season finale. They clinched a share of the Southeast Yosemite League championship as North went on to win two games in the Central Section Division IV playoffs, advancing to the semifinals for the first time since 1983.
Brown is the 2017 BVarsity All-Area Football Coach of the Year.
The season did not get off to a rousing start for the Stars.
The scrimmage at Stockdale on Aug. 18 ended abruptly after Brown called it because of his displeasure of the players’ focus just a week before the regular season opener.
“That was an adverse situation. An obstacle put in front of you that you have to overcome,” Brown said. “We overcame it. Some of it was about raising the bar and and holding these kids accountable and staying the course and building a bridge. We could have all put up walls. But that’s not what we stress. It’s better to build a bridge than a wall.”
North started the season 2-2 before winning seven of the final nine games.
“We went right back to what works best and that’s building a common bond where we can work hard and be held accountable for our action and commit to this course,” Brown said. “We became a team and became a unit.
“We got hot at the right time and we shocked some people. Everyone was counting us out. We used that to our advantage.”
The message from Brown to his players since arriving in town from the Bay Area in 2015 has been simple.
“If you love each other, you will respect each other,” Brown said. “If you love the game, you will respect and honor the game correctly with hard work and discipline.”
Now with a semifinal appearance, a league championship and a good amount of talent returning, lead by James Johnson, Chris Romero, Damien Mireles and Dylan Rutledge the message will be tweaked just a bit.
“The bar is risen and now we have to find a new course,” Brown said. “Now we have to maintain it.”