TERRE HAUTE —
The final seconds were winding down in Terre Haute North’s 56-21 high school football regional victory over Bloomington North on Friday, and Austin Massey had a request for coach Chris Barrett.
“Can I throw one?” asked Massey, playing quarterback for the last few snaps.
Not wanting the Cougars to think the Patriots were trying to run up the score, coach Barrett shook his head and declined the passing opportunity, but was chuckling as he did so. Those few seconds, he realized, typified two of the things that have helped make the Patriots regional champions — unselfishness and love of the game.
“I think I’ve got the two best quarterbacks in the Wabash Valley,” Barrett said this week in referring to both his son, starter Chris Barrett II, and Massey. Both are seniors, however, and only one can play at a time. So Massey, for the past two years, has made his mark as North’s hard-hitting free safety.
“He loves football, and he’s a good enough athlete that there were a lot of places I could put him,” the coach said of Massey, who earlier in the game had sent a Cougar receiver staggering to the bench with a textbook, shoulder-to-the-belly hit that forced an incomplete pass. “And by him trusting me and believing in our plan, it enabled us to be where we’re at … and we have a lot of kids that way.”
“That’s probably the biggest hit I’ve ever had,” Massey said this week in looking back at that emphatic pass breakup. “It’s been a good transition [from offense to defense]; anywhere I can fit in and contribute to this team.
“I’ve adapted well at free safety, and can contribute to the defense we have … but it was good to be able to get back and take a few snaps, especially with this team and the win we had.”
Making that transition was nothing out of the ordinary, Massey insisted. Agreeing with his coach, he indicated that a lot of his teammates have made similar choices.
“This team is filled with unselfish people,” he said, “people who create opportunities for themselves and position themselves to better the team. They go where the coaches want them.”
“The No. 1 thing [about the 2013 Patriots] is their closeness,” coach Barrett said. “They’ve played with or against each other since third grade, and they’re all great people — which has a direct impact on the season.
“They’re able to bounce back from adversity, they’re willing to work for what they get … and they had great coaching coming up [with Kevin Massey, Austin’s father, directing the Otter Creek teams and Norm Lowery, father of center Forrest Lowery, coaching at Woodrow Wilson before both joined the Patriot staff] … that makes it a lot easier for us as [varsity] coaches.”
Austin Massey and Chris Barrett II were opponents before they got to high school.
Massey was one of Barrett II’s receivers as a freshman and was still the junior varsity quarterback as a sophomore when Barrett II was getting some varsity snaps.
But last season Massey became a full-time defender — and still a part-time receiver, in addition to backup quarterback — and he made his mark. One particular highlight from the 2012 season he’ll remember for awhile was recovering a fumble and returning it for a touchdown to provide the winning points in a Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference win over Warren Central.
“One of the biggest highlights of my high school football career, scoring a touchdown against a big opponent like Warren Central,” Massey said this week.
“Ask anybody on our team and they’ll tell you how tough he is and how competitive he is,” coach Barrett said of Massey. “He just plays good, tough, hard-nosed, gritty football. He’s a ballhawk — he has five picks so far this year — and he loves to come up in run support. He just loves to win.”
Speaking of winning, he and his teammates didn’t necessarily expect to be playing Indianapolis Cathedral on Friday for a chance to go to Lucas Oil Stadium, but they saw some possibilities when the Patriots became a 5A team and joined Conference Indiana this season.
“We took [the changes] as an opportunity, and we took it as a challenge to play in a new conference against people we didn’t know,” Massey said. “We responded to that challenge by practicing every day and lifting every day. … and we take one game at a time. We’re focusing on Cathedral right now.”