By Eric Keppeler firstname.lastname@example.org
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Tonawanda High School senior Tim Barnard is a quiet, unassuming fellow.
At 5-foot-7 and 150 pounds soaking wet, he probably wouldn’t garner too much attention when he first steps out on the football field with the rest of his Warrior teammates.
That changes in a hurry if he puts a lick on you.
The two-year varsity vet does it all for the Warriors, playing running back, linebacker, punter and place-kicker.
In short, he never leaves the field.
“He’s a great example for the whole team of what it means to be a football player at Tonawanda,” said Warriors coach Rob Gross. “He’s mentally tough, he plays with pain and he’s a great leader.
The efforts of Barnard and his teammates have pushed the Warriors — winners of three of their first five contests — into the Section VI playoffs for the first time since 2004.
“It’s a great feeling,” Barnard said. “It’s real exciting to know that we were able to play a role in getting the Tonawanda football program back to where it should be.”
Despite his size, he’s a punishing, physical player — no matter which side of the ball he happens to be playing. He’s a sure tackler and a bruising back, according to his coach.
“He plays running back with a linebacker mentality,” Gross said. “He’s a straight-ahead runner — he wants to get downhill in a hurry and he wants to make contact. Nothing fazes him.”
In typical fashion, Barnard downplays his own role in the team’s success — instead focusing on the performance of the squad as a whole.
The key to the team’s success has been its work ethic, he said.
“We’ve meshed together very well as a team,” Barnard said. “Our focus has been good — we work very well together, but we also get on each other if we need to.”
Making the playoffs was high on Barnard’s to-do list when the season started. That goal has been accomplished, but before the playoffs begin there’s one more item of unfinished business that demands everyone’s attention:
The annual T-NT game.
More than a century old, it’s a rivalry that is traditionally played in the final week of the regular season.
In the recent past, North Tonawanda has had the better of the series – winning the last 12 contests.
“T-NT is one of the oldest traditions we have,” Barnard said. “It’s something the community really looks forward to – and I’m sick of hearing about losing 13 in a row. Beating them would definitely be big. It’s already been a successful season, but beating them would make it even more memorable.”
Usually it is the Lumberjacks who are then poised to move on to the playoffs while the Warriors get ready for the consolation rounds.
This year, the shoe is on the other foot as NT has already been eliminated from sectionals.
Gross – no stranger to the rivalry as a 1989 THS grad – called it much more than just a game.
“The TNT rivalry is a celebration of two communities that have so much in common,” Gross said. “We have a group of outstanding character young men on this team and what they’ve shown me this year will never change.”