New Bernese football play Cardinal Gibbons in NCHSAA 4-A regional final
Torrey Nowell did not come to terms with the situation when he was hired as New Bern’s football coach in December 2018.
He knew that supporters of the program were desperate for the Bears to return to the limelight after a 16-0 2014 season followed by 5-6 screenings from 2015-17 and a record 2-9 in 2018. Nowell, who led Pamlico to the 2018 1-A State Championship game, said he feels the pressure to help New Bern find their winning path.
“It’s hard to take a job in New Bern where they expect state championships and the program to be really good,” he said. “Being mediocre is not acceptable. So I really put a lot of pressure on myself, my family and my coaches.
The Bears (7-1) are a win to reach the state’s biggest stage as they visit Cardinal Gibbons (8-0) on Friday at 7 p.m. in the NCHSAA 4-A East regional final.
The winner plays either Butler (8-1) or Grimsley (8-0) on May 7 in the 4-A State Championship game.
“I think after last year we were a little ahead of schedule,” Nowell said. “This year we are right where we thought we would be.”
Cardinal Gibbons, who beat the Bears 42-7 in the second round of the 2019 playoffs en route to the state finals, stands clear of New Bern. The loss ended Nowell’s first season as coach of the Bears, a season that saw New Bern finish 10-3.
“The timing could have gotten a little big for our guys last year,” Nowell said. “But this year our guys are more mature and they understand the situation. They expected to be here whereas last year I don’t think our kids expected to be where they were.
Nowell added that his players’ speech throughout the summer was trying to reach the state championship game. But like many others, bears were limited in what they could do.
New Bern began conditioning in July, but was unable to work with soccer balls or lift weights until November due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“The coaches spend time together so that we could understand each other better, but we had kids who had their own coaches and kids who worked with other kids. But as a team we couldn’t do anything for a while, ”Nowell said. “When the schools gave us permission to do things, the kids came back and trusted the process.”
And the bears crossed their fingers.
“Knowing that at any time the program could be stopped was a big part of what we did,” Nowell said. “Children understand that this is not guaranteed. I think they really appreciate this opportunity. These young men and women worked hard and sacrificed a lot to get here. “
The Bears hope to continue doing this for another week.
“Seeing the growth of this team is very special,” Nowell said. “We are doing this for our community, which is used to seeing New Bern succeed. We are grateful to have this success. “