Black guides Northern to great heights in ’17

By Philip Cmor

Although there’s only 18 years of age separating them, senior lineman Tristin Guyer says the Northern Bedford football players look at Garry Black as more of a father than a coach, and Black likes to organize gatherings every Saturday of the offseason for the Black Panther family.

“We’d have lifting. He’d always text me because he knew I’d get other kids to go,” Guyer said. “He always pushed me to be better.”

Black got results not just with Guyer but with all of the Panthers. Coming off a 6-5 campaign with only about half the starters returning and a few newcomers from a sub-.500 junior high squad, Black guided Northern Bedford to 10 wins — four more than in 2016 — and just the program’s third District 5 championship.

In recognition, Black has been voted the Altoona Mirror’s 2017 High School Football Coach of the Year through a poll of his fellow area coaches, Mirror staff and Mirror correspondents.

Black received 31 points on the weighted ballot, 10 more than runner-up Homer DeLattre of Hollidaysburg. Huntingdon’s Mike Hudy was third, and Bishop Guilfoyle’s Justin Wheeler and Chestnut Ridge’s Max Shoemaker tied for fourth, a dozen points off Black’s total.

“I’m overwhelmed. I didn’t expect that with the years some of the other teams put together,” Black said when he was told of the award.

The Panthers came into the season expected to run somewhere toward the middle of the pack in the Inter-County Conference, but they beat Claysburg-Kimmel in overtime, edged Mount Union and came within an eyelash of taking down perennial power Bellwood-Antis for the ICC championship at the end of the regular season.

Northern Bedford rebounded from that setback to beat a pair of offensive juggernauts — Shade and Windber — to bring the school its first district crown in 22 years.

“In 2016, there were high expectations for our team,” Black said. “This year, expectations were more tempered. We took the approach of one week at a time. We didn’t put the cart before the horse.”

The Panthers really didn’t win with star players, instead getting consistent contributions from a number of players and having someone different step up on an almost weekly basis.

“This year, he tended to play more kids and not rely on individuals. He was looking for more options,” Guyer said.

That showed particularly on defense, where Black first made his mark as a coordinator for Jeff Batzel. Northern contained all-state running backs like Mount Union’s Daunte Martin and Windber’s Cody Simanski en route to their 10-3 finish. The Panthers allowed more than 14 points twice all season and allowed 3.7 rushing yards per game.

“We had to change our attitude on defense,” Black said. “We didn’t change our tendencies, but we changed our mindset on Day 1.”

Black has a career record of 25-12 through three seasons. He’s been married to his wife, Rachel, for 9 years. They have a son, Brady, who is 6.