It was a cloudless Wednesday afternoon in September, and the sunshine suited the feeling at Tolton Catholic football’s practice.
Coach Michael Egnew joked around, giving a few players grief for their awkward throwing motions. He asked them how their schoolwork was going, which warranted quick “straight A’s” as a response. Senior Carson Atkins asked a teammate if he should grow a beard.
It was clear that those on the team had bought into Egnew’s process, and the 19-player roster shared a unique bond. It also takes a team like that to turn previous unknowns into significant offensive weapons.
It makes senior running back Noah Manie and Tolton a match made in heaven.
The Trailblazers’ season has been all over the place, from getting blown out 53-0 in the season opener and subsequently not playing Week 2 because of injuries, to a solid performance and a senior night home win last week. For Manie, it’s an all-new feeling.
Manie, who scored two touchdowns last week in the Trailblazers’ 28-12 victory over Missouri Military Academy, transferred to Tolton from Hickman this year. He played baseball for the Kewpies but is now the go-to ball carrier for Tolton, producing first downs like a seasoned varsity starter.
It takes a determined person to join a sport they have never previously played after transferring schools before senior year. But Manie welcomes the challenge.
“It’s my senior year, so I wanted to try something new,” Manie said. “This team was so welcoming and encouraging, and they’re just good people.”
Manie said his first career touchdown felt great, but he wanted to put it aside and stay focused on the rest of the game. The celebration, he said, could wait until after the win was secured.
Like many high schoolers, Manie said he likes to work out and play video games in his free time. His future plans include playing baseball for Tolton and entering the Marines after graduation. He said his grandpa served in Vietnam, which inspired him to continue his family’s legacy in the military.
Manie credits his friends and family for pushing him to go out for football, a sport in which game nights and the atmosphere on the field have become Manie’s favorite aspects . He encourages students who are on the fence about playing to “just do it.”
“It’s fun, and you’re going to learn a lot of life lessons, like when you get hit, you’ve got to get back up,” Manie said. “Everyone comes together as one for a night. We just go out there as a family.”
Egnew said the Trailblazers would be immensely different without Manie. They will continue to give him the ball in coming weeks as as a staple in their run game.
“We happened to luck into him after he transferred, and he had never played before, so I convinced him to come out and play football, and here he is, a pretty good player,” Egnew said. “He’s always wanted to play. He’s locked in, and I think he really likes the sport, too.”
While Manie is imperative, Tolton’s key to success will be a team effort, especially when it comes to limiting turnovers and keeping errors to a minimum. The Trailblazers will try to fix those mistakes when they face Crest Ridge (2-1) at 7 p.m. Friday in Centerview.
“We’ve got to take care of the ball way better than we did last week,” Egnew said. “Crest Ridge looks pretty solid, well-coached, so if we make the same mistakes we made last week, it’s not going to work.”
The Trailblazers currently have 18 healthy players. Egnew said there has been a sense of accomplishment in practice this week as the players have finally understood their capabilities. Manie concurred, saying everyone has been upbeat but still focused on the task at hand.
“Every single week I’m proud of these guys and their effort,” Egnew said. “They’re all bought in, and I’m just so proud of our players and our coaches and everybody.”
Manie said the Trailblazers’ mindset hasn’t changed much since the first game at Hallsville. As for himself, Manie will continue what’s worked in his debut year.
“We just go out there and play football,” Manie said. “I’m going to run the ball like I always do.”