Noah Barnes

Senior Noah Barnes of Brookfield truly was at the heart of the Nazareth Academy football team’s incredible comeback this season from 1-3 and 2-4 starts to the Class 5A state championship 45-44 over Peoria last November.

The 6-foot-1, 272-pound Barnes was the Roadrunners’ starting center. 

“Everyone was so great about it. It got to a point of the season where [coach Tim Racki] was preaching, ‘It’s time for everyone to step up,’” Barnes said. “People were counting us out, but we knew what we were capable of. Especially with our offense because our first game of the season we won 2-0 and then [45 points in the state final], a pretty big jump. We all just grew so much closer throughout the season. We’re really a family now.”

Barnes senses that same atmosphere at the University of St. Francis in Joliet and will continue playing football for the NAIA program. Barnes was among five Nazareth athletes who celebrated signing their letters of intent on April 12.

“It was just a really good fit, a really good school,” said Barnes, who is undecided on his major. “Just the way the program is built, you could see everyone has high character and there’s really an emphasis on education and they put that kind of before sports and athletics.”

Barnes began playing organized football in second grade with the Worth-Ridge Panthers. He continued with the Lions Football Club in seventh and eighth grade. With the Panthers, he played primarily on the line and some linebacker. 

“We had one running formation when I was younger — Meat. We ran it one time. One carry for two yards,” Barnes said. “I consider myself a running back at least at one point. And also our kicker, because no one else could kick.”

At Nazareth, Barnes focused on football. As a freshman, he expected to play guard when a coach asked him about snapping the ball and playing center. He switched positions and was promoted for the state playoffs. 

Barnes played center all four seasons, two on varsity. He also played three seasons on the defensive line, except senior year to keep healthy.

“I kind of liked [center] because I was kind of a leader of the line in a sense, knowing everyone’s job, kind of got everything going,” Barnes said.

Barnes is currently throwing shot put and discus for the boys track and field team. He also was the boys basketball manager for two years and briefly played boys volleyball in 2020 until the COVID-19 pandemic shut down all spring sports. 

“The whole mental aspect [I’ve learned through football]. Sometimes you’re tired but you think about all of the people who made sacrifices for you and how you should make sacrifices for them,” Barnes said. “Putting others before you is also something that’s really important for me, putting the team mindset before me.”