Before the season began Gilbert/Northwestern head coach, Scott Salius said that he wanted something to show for his teams’ season.
“I want that damn banner, we want to hang something up,” said Salius after a practice before the season. “Twenty years from now, I want them (players) to see the banner in the gym and say I did this.”
The Yellowjackets did that and more. They won the Western Division in the Pequot Conference, getting the coveted banner, and they won nine games, most in program history and earned a spot in the Class M State playoffs.
Leading the way for the Yellowjackets was their running back Tony Ortiz who rushed for 1,833 yards, an average of 7.7 yards-per-carry, and 18 rushing touchdowns, which secured his spot as the Register Citizen’s football MVP.
“I just came in with the mentality to do my part,” said Ortiz, who added five receiving touchdowns. “We had a pretty good chance to go far.”
Their season ended in the first round of the Class M playoffs against Joe Barlow. Ortiz rushed for 160 yards, had one rushing touchdown and added a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the loss.
Going into the season the Yellowjackets had to replace three starters on the offensive line, which is a tall order for any team, but they stepped up.
Ortiz rushed for over 200-yards twice, 235 yards against Cromwell and them 293 yards against Canton. He also rushed for over 100-yards eight times, seven of those going over 150-yards in the process.
“They helped me get to the second level. I never stopped running,” said Ortiz who made a living by getting big runs once he turned the corner.
With teams worrying about stopping Ortiz, it helped out other Yellowjackets players.
“Teams would try to stick on me,” said Ortiz. “But it opened it up for other guys.”
Winning nine games wasn’t easy for the Yellowjackets, they had a hard schedule early in the season with five out of its first seven games against Cromwell, North Branford, Ellington/Somers, Canton and Avon.
“In the beginning we had tough games and we knew that we had to win out those games and go into mid-season with at least one loss,” said Ortiz.
They lost only one game, against North Branford, their third game of the season. Not every game came easy to the Yellowjackets. Against Ellington/Somers they trailed by 14 with seven minutes left, but they were able to comeback to tie the game in regulation and win in overtime.
“We just never quit, down 14-0 late in the fourth,” said Ortiz. “As a team to comeback, we worked hard as a whole to win.”
Ortiz hasn’t decided where he will be playing next season or whether it will be for football or not. He is playing basketball this winter for Northwestern and will be on the track and field team come the spring season.