Prep football

Noll's Whitfield happy to be a road Warrior

2013-10-21T08:56:00Z 2013-12-12T22:15:29Z Noll's Whitfield happy to be a road WarriorSteve Hanlon steve.hanlon@nwi.com, (219) 933-4198 nwitimes.com
October 21, 2013 8:56 am  • 

The pain was intense, consuming and long-lasting. It didn't last a day or two. It carried over from Oct. 26 of last autumn to today.

And surely through Friday, too.

"I'm the type of person who believes things happen for a specific reason," Bishop Noll senior Vernard Whitfield said. "That game hurt a lot of us, especially me. It's driven us to work hard and get better."

The game he speaks of was the sectional semifinal at Winamac last season in the Class A sectional. The Warriors drove deep into Winamac's red zone but were stopped on a fourth-and-1 play, losing 14-10.

So when Noll (5-4) drew sixth-ranked Rennselaer (7-2) in the Class 2A Sectional 33 opener this year, it wasn't a super shock, like some other teams might feel. The drive to Jasper County isn't going to have the Warriors' knees knocking.

They've been "here" before and are ready for the monstrous challenge.

"We have worked very hard," Whitfield said. "We believe we can win a sectional championship. The Winamac game lets us know we can go down there and compete."

Noll is 4-0 in road games this season and 1-4 at home. Coach Mike Juscik can't quite understand it, but he's ready to make an adjustment should his team play another home game.

"I told the guys we're going to get on a bus and drive around the block and come back," he said with a laugh.

Whitfield, a 5-foot-10, 180-pound senior, agrees.

"There are a lot of distractions at home games," he said. "But when we go on the road it's just us. We bond on the bus. Our entire focus is on the game. We become a team on those bus rides."

The four-year varsity player is putting up solid numbers for Noll. In 25 carries, he has 103 yards and one score. He has 20 receptions for 326 yards and one score.

The defensive back has 35 tackles and seven interceptions.

It's amazing Whitfield has time to play football at all. He is involved with a Christian ministry at his church, St. Timothy's in Gary. He is a road warrior in this, too.

They've gone around to bruised neighborhoods and cleans up, bringing hope in the image of a sponge and a smile.

He visits nursing homes with his team to bring light to those that have been forgotten by so many.

"It's what my faith has taught me to do," Whitfield said. "We give back. That's what we're supposed to do."

Juscik calls Whitfield a "Lunch Pail" kid. At a 7-on-7 camp at Notre Dame this summer when the heat was high Whitfield played every play, just like he does now.

Nothing new at all.

"He came off the field drenched in sweat," Juscik said. "I told him that work would prepare him for this season and it has."

Likewise, the Winamac game last fall has prepared Noll for Friday's game at sixth-ranked Rensselaer. No matter how tough the Bombers are on their home field, the goal remains the same.

"This is sectionals and you're going to play a good team," Juscik said. "It doesn't matter who we play. Our goal is to win a sectional championship."

"We have distractions at home," Whitfield said. "We'll get on the bus, come together and we'll be ready. We like to prove people wrong."

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