By Dan Hardenbrook
Add another accomplishment to the Hall of Fame career of Newberry Indians Coach Joe Austin: After leading the Indians to a 9-2 record, a runner-up finish in the Great Lakes 8 East, a first-round playoff win, and a third straight appearance in the regional finals, Austin was named Upper Peninsula 8 Player Coach of the Year by the UPSSA at their All UP meeting last week.
Austin, who also crossed the 200 career wins mark this season, was nominated alongside an elite group that included a multiple time state champion (Leo Gorzinski – North Central), the All Conference Coach of the year (Matt Mattson – Munising) and an underdog from a small school that has rebuilt its program (Brett Gervais – Lake Linden).
While some may have expected Gorzinski or Mattson to win the award based on the dominance of their teams, it actually came down to Austin or Gervais. Austin built Newberry into a consistent contender; Gervais led Lake Linden to the playoffs and a top 5 ranking in just his second season.
Austin was the leading vote getter, earning him one of the few awards he didn’t previously have.
This season, Newberry’s Varsity team set single season 8 Player division school records for points scored, and fewest points allowed. The defense had five shutouts, the most in a single season since 1951. Multiple players earned All Conference and All UP awards for their performance.
The Indians had two players with over 1,500 all purpose yards, and on defense, two players topped 100 total tackles; another one finished with 97. The Indians had five players lead in a stat category, making visible the teamwide approach and development that Austin preached.
He is the first Newberry head coach to win a UP Coach of the Year Award from the UPSSA since Brandon Bruce in 2005. Bruce, Austin, and former coach Fred Bryant are the only Newberry coaches in the playoff era to lead their teams to the postseason in at least three straight years.