PORTAGE, Mich. — New Portage Northern head football coach Kurt Twichell has found himself in the middle of the Portage rivalry.
"It was weird for the first day to be honest with you," Twichell recalled after being hired in May.
And the players admit it was a weird feeling when he was hired.
"Of course it's weird because he's coming from a rival school," said senior tight end and defensive end Jake Kavanaugh.
Twichell spent the past seven seasons as an assistant at Portage Central, where he spent time as the Mustangs' defensive coordinator.
Now, he's crossing the street to take over the Huskies.
"Mick [Enders] is one of my best friends obviously," Twichell smiled. "We probably didn't speak for a little while there afterwards but at the end of the day we're both really competitive. We've talked more now that the summer has gone on, but it'll be fun."
Even in a few short months since Twichell was hired, the players have bought into his new system.
"From day one he said he's a Husky," Kavanaugh said. "He grabbed all of the Northern gear he could and there hasn't been a day I haven't seen him in orange and white."
Junior wide receiver and defensive back XaVior Tyus knew Twichell a bit prior to him being hired but their relationship has built quickly.
"It was a little weird as we first started but as we got going into practices we got more familiar with him, it's been really good," Tyus added. "I already trust him and what he does."
As a first-time head coach, Twichell is feeling a bit of pressure heading into the 2021 season but he also says he would be concerned if that wasn't the case.
"Expectations are high and it is a little bit of pressure," he said. "But if you're not feeling pressure then something is probably wrong, so I feel good about where we're at right now."
Behind Twichell is a top notch staff filled with experience at different levels and a lot of senior leadership from players like Jake Kavanaugh.
"Coach told us from early on that a player-led team goes a lot further than a coach-led team and we've taken it upon ourselves as seniors and even some underclassmen guys just stepping up every single day," Kavanaugh said.
Twichell says he has to pinch himself every day realizing he's the head coach of the Huskies.
"The word there is extreme fortune," he smiled. "To be able to take over a program like this, in a community like this, a school district like Portage Public Schools and Portage Northern specifically, most first-year guys don't get that kind of opportunity."
The Huskies will return eight total starters from last season, including a pair of two-way starters and expectations will remain high after a 7-2 finish to last season.
Twichell will make his head coaching debut when Northern hosts Battle Creek Central in week one.