By Justin Sokeland
(BEDFORD) – Football coaches, at the risk of profiling with the broad brush of stereotyping, have a loud, harsh, volume voice. Blame it on the emotions of a physical sport. They can holler and shout with the ferocity of a drill sergeant.
Bedford North Lawrence’s Steve Weber does not like that approach. That doesn’t mean he has not, in 20 years on the sideline, bellowed like a mad bull to insure complete attention from an offender. He would rather “coach ‘em up” rather than dress them down.
Even the most calm, cool and collected can snap. And Weber, by his own admission, exploded on Friday night at Jeffersonville.
He reached his verbal breaking point at halftime, with the Stars down 14-0 and facing the unpleasant thought of a lackluster road loss to end the regular season. So while the Red Devils relaxed, Weber was red-faced angry in the BNL locker room. He let his team know it, bluntly and forcefully.
“That’s probably the most brutal I’ve ever been,” Weber said. “I thought they had quit on me.”
The Stars did not quit, they won. BNL, after giving up a kickoff-return touchdown to start the second half, rallied for a 23-20 victory and some much-needed momentum for the Class 5A sectional.
In this era of absurd political correctness, when closed-door comments seem to leak out into the public domain, some might take offense to that old-school technique. Weber doesn’t need to apologize. Works for the military in basic training, after all.
“I felt bad after the game,” Weber said. “I jumped on them. You shouldn’t have to do that. I don’t want to. I don’t want to holler and scream. You can get sick of it and tune it out. I would have thought they’d be sick of all the hollering and screaming. Maybe they need more of that.”
It worked, for a team that’s been difficult to pinpoint. The Stars (3-6) have been blown out three times, lost inexplicably to Madison, yet posted two wins on the road as heavy underdogs. They have been notoriously slow starters all year. What makes them tick? Nobody really knows, even after nine games.
“On any given night, we can have a great game, a bad game, it depends on how we come out and play, how the week of practice goes,” senior receiver Ethan Baer said. “If we keep good energy during the week, we can win any game we come across.”
From this point, BNL can no longer afford a sluggish start. The Stars, after a bye week, will return to Floyd Central for the Sectional 16 semifinal on Nov. 1. While the Highlanders are favored to win the two games necessary for the title, the Stars have proven capable of challenging. They lost a 29-21 decision at Floyd just two weeks ago.
All the shouting helped the Stars turn into the postseason on a different arc.
“We have good energy from the win,” senior quarterback Dalton Nikirk said. “I think the momentum from that game will definitely carry over until the sectional.”
“It’s a huge win,” Baer said. “It helps a lot of people who need the confidence boost.”
While there’s danger of the momentum dissipating over time, BNL needed the week away to heal, to get wounded veterans James Underwood (hamstring) and Skyler Bates (neck) back to full strength, to get some youngsters in the secondary up to speed, to finish the fine-tuning process. Nothing new, just do the old stuff better.
“I like being off,” Weber said. “I think the momentum will carry over, I don’t think it will go away. So I like the week off. I don’t think a lot of new things is good. To me, you spend nine weeks of preseason getting to be good at what you’re doing.”
BNL now has six more practice days to prepare. Then the real season, the one-or-done scenario, begins.
“I’m confident in the fact we’ll compete,” Weber said. “I won’t ever say confident in a win. But I know we can compete. Had we gotten throttled by them (during the regular-season meeting), this would have all been pointless. I don’t know if I could have kept them focused. But now they know we can compete with them.”