High School Football

Hard work breeds success for Nashville Hornets football program

Royce Newman (88) and other Nashville teammates congratulate Bryce Paszkiewicz (49)
Royce Newman (88) and other Nashville teammates congratulate Bryce Paszkiewicz (49)

As one of three Nashville players with more than 100 tackles, senior linebacker Bryce Paszkiewicz has done his share of work to help the 9-3 Hornets reach the Class 2A football semifinals.

So whether it’s tossing 50-pound bags of livestock feed at the local Farmers Mid-County Feed and Supply during the summer with senior running back Hunter Schultze or tossing hay bales to cattle on the family farm, Paszkiewicz is right at home.

He is no stranger when it comes to doing the type of heavy lifting it takes to succeed in sports and in life.

“Me and Hunter could tell a big difference after working there,” Paskiewicz said of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. days at Farmers Mid-County during the summer that preceded football workouts in the evenings. “We have a lot more endurance and stamina to play the games with.”

On most nights after practice during the season, Paszkiewicz changes from his football work gear to his real work gear and heads out to feed cattle on the family farm south of Nashville.

“You’re driving the tractor into the pasture and it’s dark,” Paszkiewicz said. “You’ve got a flashlight and a bunch of hungry cows around you and they’re trying to eat. They’re bumping into you and you’re trying not to get kicked. but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

After chasing down a lively calf, chasing down running backs has to seem easy.

You’ve got a flashlight and a bunch of hungry cows around you and they’re trying to eat. They’re bumping into you and you’re trying not to get kicked. but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Nashville linebacker Bryce Paszkiewicz

Nashville coach Tim Kuhn estimated at least half of his players either live or work on farms and says that work ethic has helped the Hornets plow through their playoff opposition. Next up is a 2 p.m. semifinal road game Saturday against Auburn (9-3).

“Having to do that stuff day in and day out teaches you discipline and dedication,” Paszkiewicz said. “Not giving up on things when it gets tough. That’s really helped us throughout this season to keep on playing. When things get bad, we kept on pushing and that’s why we’re still playing.”

Kuhn has plenty of football talent on hand, including a 6-foot-7, 260-pound Division I recruit in tight end defensive end Royce Newman. Newman has 65 tackles and 8.5 sacks along with 32 catches for 662 yards and nine TDs.

But as Kuhn pointed out, that football talent has been honed with a lot of work being done outside of the weight room and practice field.

“Most of those kids are going to a job and some of those guys are playing Legion baseball or playing basketball in the summer, too,” Kuhn said. “They might be doing three sports in a day.”

Newman, committed to Missouri as an offensive lineman, also helped Nashville to a second-place finish at the 2014 Class 2A state basketball tournament.

“You’ve got a D-1 kid in Royce Newman and he comes in every day and is putting in the work just like a couple of our sophomores or unsung linemen like Nick Brown,” Kuhn said. “It starts with him and I think it trickles all the way down to the freshmen.”

Senior running back and cornerback Kyle Schnitker, the team’s second-leading rusher with 550 yards and 10 touchdowns, quietly lets Kuhn know when he might have to miss football activities to help his family out with hauling grain or other farm work.

A year ago it was star running back Quayd Novak, whose non-football job was pouring concrete.

“Some of these kids are pulling an eight-hour shift with a job, then have school and on top of that we’re doing what we need to do football-wise,” said Kuhn, whose players may view football as a lot of fun compared to their other duties. “They’re putting in full days.”

Proud sports tradition

For a small school in Washington County, Nashville’s boys and girls sports programs have done exceptionally well.

The school has won seven state titles, including three in softball (2001, 2012, 2015). The Hornets and Hornettes also own state championships in boys basketball (1977-78), boys track (1998), girls basketball (2012-13) and girls golf (2013).

Most of those kids are going to a job and some of those guys are playing Legion baseball or playing basketball in the summer, too. They might be doing three sports in a day.

Nashville football coach Tim Kuhn

Not counting 16 state football playoff trips, Nashville has made an incredible 64 state tournament appearances in all sports.

The Hornets’ football team reached the 1998 Class 2A state title game under former coach Bruce Reeder, finishing 13-1 after a 21-7 loss to Kaneland.

Nashville football reached the semifinals in 2004 and made quarterfinal appearances in 1997 and 2009. Success hasn’t come as easily lately, which explains why the entire town is decked out in Hornets’ blue again.

The store-front windows of Lee’s Sports, Kesel Hardware, WNSV Radio and other local businesses are either painted or have signs cheering on the Hornets. It’s tough to drive through town without seeing car and truck windows painted or signs in yards or hung on fences.

“It’s pretty cool,” said Schultze, who broke the school’s all-time record for total yards last week and has 1,153 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns. “It’s a small town so pretty much everybody knows who the guys are. It seems like it’s different around here now. We are known as a basketball town and all, but we haven’t been this far in football in a while and it seems like it’s a big thing.”

Senior inside linebacker Chase Stanowski’s father, Jerry Stanowski, was also a football standout on Nashville’s first playoff qualifier in 1981. His son is among the current defensive leaders with 130 tackles and 6.5 sacks, and also seems a bit overwhelmed by the amount of support the Hornets are receiving from all over.

“It means a lot to us as and I know what we’re doing means a lot to the players, the coaches and the town,” Chase Stanowski said. “I think it’s a pretty big deal because we’ve only made it up there (to the finals) one time. It would be pretty special to make it there again. There’s only four teams left and that made me realize this is really something.”

A modernized throwback offense

The base offense at Nashville, as it was during the program’s proud past under Reeder, is the old-fashioned double-wing. But Kuhn and his coaching staff have tweaked things here and there and the result is a multi-dimensional attack that includes the spread offense, the single-wing and the quarterback in a shotgun formation.

That’s a long way from the double-wing, but if the Hornets want to revert to ground-and-pound they are extremely capable of that, too.

They have 2,499 yards rushing led by Schutze, Schnitker and two-way standout Jaris Dalman (339 yards, five TDs), while quarterback Andrew Kash has thrown for 1,343 yards and 13 TDs with only three interceptions. His top receivers are Newman (32 catches, 662 yards, nine TDs) and Ethan Reid (36 catches, 384 yards, one TD).

“We’ve got good talent all around, really,” said senior Nick Brown, who starts at right tackle and middle linebacker and has 118 tackles. “If you even make the slightest hole our backs will find it. They’re good about following their blocks and getting to where they need to go.”

Like his teammates, Brown felt the team would be good but wasn’t sure they’d still be playing the week before Thanksgiving.

“Coach Kuhn’s really gotten in here and done some good things with the program, really made Nashville football what it is,” Paszkiewicz said. “For a while it was just kind of a neat thing to make the playoffs. Last year we got to the second round and this year we’re in the final four, so it’s pretty awesome to say that.”

Norm Sanders: 618-239-2454, @NormSanders