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01/08/2023 08:08 AM

Novak is a Sensational Sophomore Running Attack for VR-OL Football

Sophomore running back Max Novak emerged as a key ground gainer for the Valley Regional-Old Lyme football team in only his second pigskin campaign this past fall for the Class SS state-finalist Warriors. Photo courtesy of Max Novak

Only just completing his second full season of competitive football in his life, Max Novak has set the stage for even greater heights, after playing in a state championship game while emerging as a key component for one of the stronger teams in the Pequot Conference.

The Valley Regional-Old Lyme football team sophomore running back had played basketball since third grade. He then tacked on lacrosse to his athletic repertoire about five years later in eighth grade.

Yet upon high school as a freshman, Max was marveled by the game of football and dramatically drawn to it. This past fall, Max was a key component of the Warriors’ overall 11-2 season and run to the program’s only second state final appearance–finishing with 14 carries and 127 yards, and two touchdowns on the ground.

“I just love the environment and the team here; it is like a big family,” says Max, who also recorded four sacks and three fumble recoveries this campaign on defense. “I enjoy practice and the physicality of the game and that you are allowed to hit someone.”

In speaking to his rapid rise within a short time frame, Max remarks that it is total and complete dedication in the gym while always striving to be better than the day prior. He also adds that several sensational seniors and upperclassmen guided him along the way by setting sound examples.

“I have been successful by getting in the weight room and training in the preseason, plus working hard daily in practice. I also keep reflecting on what I need to do to get better,” Max says. “The seniors on the team this year were the best seniors I will ever have; they taught me a lot. I just fell into having a good skill set. I also think being naturally athletic allowed me to be able to grasp football so quickly. My teammates were really great with the advice they gave out. And I could not ask for better coaches.”

Delving deeper into his solo improvements over the course of the past two falls under Friday night lights, Max’s football IQ has illuminated brighter and brighter from one down to the next. Max notes that another cerebral complex in his head stems from knowing when to use what level of his body.

“I have improved a lot when it comes to gaining a lot of knowledge on the field. I have become more aware of the game and acquired in-game knowledge,” says Max. “My footwork on the line and in-game awareness has gotten a lot better. I have also learned how to use my lower body more.”

Warriors’ football Head Coach Hill Gbunblee praises Max for his tenacity and competitiveness as a young upstart on the squad.

“Max has come such a long way, in a very short period of time,” says Gbunblee. “Max possesses key attributes that make for an exceptional young player. Given how integral he was to our success, it’s perhaps hardest to wrap your head around the fact that he’s only a sophomore. He’s a tenacious competitor who rises when the challenge and the stakes are high. I expect great things from Max over the next two seasons.”

Max was part of a true turnaround by the Warriors this fall, as the team went from a sub-.500 campaign at 4-6 in 2021 to coming up just one game short of a crown. Now in retrospect on the season, he thinks that it only took a few solid outings for the team to gain steam and start showing their swagger on the gridiron.

“This year, this team showed me that anything is possible. I did not think we could get as far as we got,” Max says. “After the first couple of games, we started to really believe we could go far. From there, we just kept working hard every day. We had the mindset of trying to win states.”

The defeat in the state finals can now only be viewed as a motivational positive for Max and the Warriors when they take to camp to prepare for 2023. For himself, he just wants to keep the momentum flowing and become an even bigger standout as a junior.

“For me, I just keep trying to be the best I can and help this team succeed,” Max says. “For our team, our goal is to get back to the state final and finish it off the way we want to, and that is with a win.”