The Push to Perfection

Hopes are high for Tiger football this season, but the team leaders know to keep their sights set on one game at a time.

Brayden+Kushner%2C+Ian+Zahorchak%2C+Logan+Kushner%2C+and+Sam+Lenchner+are+looking+to+help+lead+the+team+to+a+league+title+this+year.

Kat Klinefelter

Brayden Kushner, Ian Zahorchak, Logan Kushner, and Sam Lenchner are looking to help lead the team to a league title this year.

Manas Kathir, Sports Editor

With the beginning of the school year underway, students are dwelling on three major changes to their lifestyles: waking up early, homework, and Tiger football.

FNL, or Friday Night Lights, brings the community together as North Allegheny students join in cheering on the football team at Newman Stadium. Is it extremely fun? Of course. Is it successful? Well, Tiger football has struggled to reach the end of the WPIAL tournament since 2012, but this year’s team is accepting the challenge and looking forward to changing its critics’ narratives.

“The first game against Allderdice was really exciting,” said tight end and defensive lineman Brayden Kushner, a senior on the team. “We’ve been working since November to get to this point, and seeing the stadium filled was electrifying. It was also satisfying to see that all that offseason work paid off when even our JV team helped to shut them out.” 

Kushner was one of the first four members of the team to walk out onto the field together as his squad got ready to compete last Friday night. The team emerged victorious, dominating the game with a 41-0 blowout. That was just one of the many goals that Kushner has set for his team in his final year.

“My general goal is to make an impact on both sides of the ball,” he added. “We want to win a WPIAL championship for the first time in ten years and then make our way to a state championship.”

Even though Kushner has his eye on the field, he does not hesitate to acknowledge how football has helped him in his personal life. 

“Football has taught me mental toughness,” he said. “Football requires you to push through hardship and get to work without complaining. Whether it’s hot weather at practice or a long paper at school, playing football has instilled a tenacity in me that helps me get through it all.”

Kushner’s teammate, Ian Zahorchak, a senior wide receiver and defensive back who attended Central Catholic in his sophomore year, agrees. 

“Individually, I always want to put my team in a place to succeed and win,” Zahorchak said. “My goal is to lead the defense and command together as a unit to win. As a team, our sights should be set at nothing less than a WPIAL championship. I have seen what it takes to win, and this group of talented players has exactly what it takes to succeed.”

Zahorchak realizes his responsibility as a leader. He has embraced that role and always makes sure to keep his group in check. However, he always stays grateful for what the seniors before him taught him about leadership.

“They taught me how to lead without being a jerk about it,” he said. “There is a line, and you only cross it when necessary. The rest of the time you just stay quiet and work your tail off. Everyone will follow you if you are down in the mud with them, grinding every day.”

I have seen what it takes to win, and this group of talented players has exactly what it takes to succeed.”

— Ian Zahorchak, Senior WR/DB

Last Friday night at the season opener, Zahorchak’s experience was more emotional than anything else.

“I was more calm [before the game] than I would have anticipated. For me, it was about controlling my emotions until gametime, then it was full steam ahead. That’s when the emotions surfaced, but in the form of adrenaline.”

There are always different personalities on a sports team. Right guard Sam Lenchner, one of the two seniors on the starting offensive line, feels differently about his team’s chances this year.

“This year, we have a group of seniors who are so close and tight with each other,” Lenchner said. “Most of these guys have been playing with each other since middle school or before.  Similarly, the young guys are extremely promising. There’s a lot of talent on this team, and I think people will see that when we get to the playoffs especially.”

In last year’s playoffs, the Tigers squared off against the Mt. Lebanon Blue Devils in the semifinals and fell short in fighting fashion, 28-17. Now that the team is back to a fresh season, they are hoping to exact their revenge against Mt. Lebanon on Homecoming night.

However, Lebanon is not the matchup that Lenchner is looking forward to the most.

“I’m really looking forward to the age-old rivalry game with Pine-Richland,” he said. “I think that there’s a lot of anticipation between us and Pine, and I’m looking forward to settling it on the field.  There’s nothing better than two great teams getting together and just going at it on the field.  Those types of games are my favorite to play in.”

All members of the team share a sense of appreciation for the fans. 

“All the student section has to do is show up and be loud,” Lenchner said. “It’s always fun to look up after a touchdown and see everyone going crazy.  Make sure to show up to the away games. It’s always great to see the support on the road.”

Senior year is bound to be filled with strong emotions for Kushner, Lenchner, and Zahorchak, but Kushner’s younger brother Logan, a junior, hopes to take advantage of his starting role at quarterback to help lift his team to victories.

“My job is to lift my guys while also working on improving in my position,” he said. “We are getting better and working hard every day, so we feel extremely confident going into Week Two. As long as we keep on working, everything will fall into place.”

Like Lenchner, Kushner is waiting for his opportunity to take on Pine-Richland on September 30th. The Rams vs. Tigers is a classic rivalry, and the junior QB is ready to lead his team to victory.

“It has been a few years since we played them, and to bring back such a historic rivalry means a lot to the team and our program,” he said.

Tonight, the Tigers will take on the Canon-McMillan Scottish Highlanders in what is going to be an important early-season test.