Now heading into his senior season, Gnacinski will be looked upon to lead a return trip to the football playoffs for the Falcons for the second time in the program’s history.
To pull off that feat, though, Timber Creek will rely on the leadership of players such as Gnacinski to set the tone for a younger roster.
It was in spring practices after his sophomore year that Gnacinski was asked tomove from the secondary up closer to the line of scrimmage. At the time, his 5-9, 185-pound frame would need to rely on his tremendous quickness and technique to survive the onslaught of offensive linemen.
Another inch and about 5 pounds added on, Gnacinski is better prepared — both physically and experience-wise — to help take charge of the Falcons’ defense.
I think the biggest thing for me this year is meeting the ball carrier in the hole and punching him back.
Timber Creek linebacker Noah Gnacinski
“He should be our leader on defense,” said Timber Creek head coach Kevin Golden.
In addition to his speed and agility, Gnacinski seems to excel at getting off blocks after reading his key to get to the ball carrier.
“The older guys in front of me really helped me to have big eyes and be able to read the whole play. I think the biggest thing for me this year is meeting the ball carrier in the hole and punching him back,” Gnacinski said. “I wish I could be bigger. Being a small guy, I have to rely on speed to make me a better player. I’ve been working on speed and being explosive.”
Having experience in the secondary is a plus when Gnacinski drops back on passes, and he said he feels comfortable in man-to-man coverage. Experience in 7-on-7 in the offseason was also an advantage for Gnacinski and his teammates, he acknowledged.
But just a few starters are returning this year and others have limited experience.
“There aren’t many coming back,” Gnacinski said. “We’re scrappy, and the goal is to get turnovers and get 11 players to the ball every play.”
Gnacinski said the pressure to meet last year’s level of achievement, the team’s first playoff appearance and a stellar victory over Arlington Martin in the bi-district round, is welcome.
“The guys are young, but they look up to me and they have my back and they’ll do their job,” he said. “There’s not much pressure. All the guys can do their job.”
The focus is also a day-to-day proposition.
“Practices are key this year,” Gnacinski said as the daily focus to give 100 percent will be crucial if they want to repeat last year’s marks.
“We have a chant — GFB!” Gnacinski said. “It’s about gold footballs.”