After North Penn's 0-3 start to the season, Austin Shearer knew, as the starting quarterback and a senior captain, that his preparation and approach would be key to a possible turnaround.
"I wanted to be the guy my teammates looked to in that situation," he said. "I said to them, 'Let's not get down on ourselves. We need to forget about those first three games and work on getting better.' It wasn't time for excuses."
After losing to powers La Salle, Archbishop Wood, and St. Joseph's Prep, Shearer and the Knights rebounded with seven consecutive wins in the Suburban One League Continental Conference.
"La Salle, Wood, and the Prep are all very good teams," Shearer said. "But I don't think we played to our potential against any of them. We knew we were better than what we showed."
In making a return to the PIAA District 1 Class AAAA playoffs after a rare absence, North Penn, as the No. 11 seed, will visit No. 6 Coatesville in a first-round game at 7 p.m. Friday.
With the 6-foot-1, 217-pound Shearer throwing for 175 yards and a touchdown, the Knights (7-3) closed the regular season Friday with a 44-14 romp over Continental Conference rival Souderton.
Shearer, of Lansdale, split time at QB much of last season.
"I tried over the summer to be more consistent as a passer and get the timing down with my receivers," the 18-year-old said. "I wanted all of us to be on the same page."
His targets include wideout Justin Hudimac, handyman Kris Akins, tailback Nyfease West, and tight end Nick Wright.
After seeing limited action early on, West, a 5-9, 175-pound sophomore, has developed into a rushing catalyst.
"When he got an opportunity, he really took advantage of it," Shearer said. "It's tough to take him down with one guy."
Luke Berry is a tough-as-nails fullback. An improved offensive line features tackles Frank Tranzilli and Andrew Thomas, and tight ends Wright and Alex Eppinger.
"Once the offensive line figured things out and started playing well, we all started playing well," Shearer said. "The guys up front have really been getting it done."
North Penn's defense has been spearheaded by tackles Nick Muth and Jesse Cook, end Alex Kaufmann, and linebackers Wright and Berry. Akins, a cornerback, and strong safety Lewis Dickinson lead the secondary.
Next up for the Knights is defending district champion Coatesville (9-1), which looks to bounce back from Friday's 24-7 defeat by Ches-Mont League National Conference rival Downingtown West.
"Even though they ended the regular season with a loss, Coatesville is a dangerous team," Shearer said. "We'll have to be ready."
Shearer, who played youth football for the Lansdale Cannoneers, has heard from a number of Division III football programs, including Dickinson, Johns Hopkins, and Wilkes. He plans to major in business in college.