Thanksgiving Preview: Vikings vs Lancers

Mar­quis Ed­wards on a run­ning play.

It’s been mar­in­at­ing for the past 115 years. 

Next week, it’s fi­nally time to feast. 

For the North­east and Cent­ral high school foot­ball teams, Thanks­giv­ing will provide much more than a de­li­cious meal. It also al­lows the two Pub­lic League foes to con­tin­ue a long last­ing tra­di­tion that spans more than a cen­tury. 

North­east cur­rently leads the Thanks­giv­ing Day series, 54-51-10. The Vik­ings stormed past Cent­ral, 29-0, in last year’s con­test, ex­tend­ing its Thanks­giv­ing streak to six con­sec­ut­ive vic­tor­ies. 

However, this time around, Cent­ral has all the right tools for re­tali­ation. The Lan­cers went un­defeated in league play this sea­son (6-0), earn­ing first place in the Pub­lic League Sil­ver Di­vi­sion. Cent­ral is cur­rently 8-2 over­all, outscor­ing op­pon­ents by 148 along the way.  

The Lan­cers have de­feated North­east once already this sea­son, elim­in­at­ing the Vik­ings from the post­season with a 28-20 vic­tory in the Pub­lic League quarterfi­nals on Oct. 28. 

Now, they have a chance at seconds. 

“Num­ber one, we know it’ll be a tough game, so we’re pre­par­ing for that,” said Cent­ral boss Rich Drayton. “It’s al­ways a tough rivalry with North­east. We’ve been play­ing them since forever. They al­ways have a good team.”

The Lan­cers are armed with seni­or quar­ter­back Ry­an Dy­dak, who has com­pleted 76 of 126 at­tempts this sea­son for 1,101 yards and 18 touch­downs. 

He’s con­nec­ted al­most per­fectly with wide re­ceiv­er Rich Drayton, who has snagged 40 passes for 598 yards this sea­son. The 6-foot-1, 210 pound wide re­ceiv­er is Cent­ral’s top scorer with 86 points.  

On the ground, Jesse Gil­lis is the Lan­cers’ biggest threat. The 5-foot-6, 155-pound ju­ni­or run­ning back has rushed for 655 yards and six touch­downs this sea­son. Ju­ni­or run­ning back Ha­keem El­lis has ac­quired 464 yards of his own and 48 points. 

Dave Ol­iphant, a 210-pound seni­or line­back­er, has anchored the Lan­cers’ stel­lar de­fense this sea­son and is ex­pec­ted to make a big im­pact on Thanks­giv­ing Day. 

“Our de­fense up front is very strong,” said Drayton. “We know it’ll be an in­tense game. We’re try­ing to come out and prac­tice very hard and keep our in­tens­ity up. We’re also work­ing on our con­di­tion­ing be­cause we know that we’ll be play­ing a full, tough game.”

On North­east’s side, the an­nu­al rivalry could provide an op­por­tun­ity for re­venge. After claim­ing the Pub­lic League cham­pi­on­ship last year — for the first time since 1983 —the Vik­ings were pre­ma­turely knocked out of the post­season in the first round. 

This could be their chance at pay­backs. 

“Hope­fully we can con­tin­ue the tra­di­tion of win­ning that we es­tab­lished over the past six years,” said North­east head coach Chris Ri­ley. “We had a lot of guys out sick with the flu, so we’re work­ing with that, but I think it’ll be a com­pet­it­ive game. It al­ways is.”

North­east fin­ished the reg­u­lar sea­son 3-3 in the Pub­lic League Gold Di­vi­sion (6-5 over­all). They were guided by ju­ni­or wide re­ceiv­er La­Quille Nes­bitt, who led his team in re­ceiv­ing yards (377) and scor­ing (54). 

Shimeek Carter has also played a pivotal role with the Vik­ings this sea­son. The seni­or run­ning back rushed for a team-high 478 yards and sev­en touch­downs. Fel­low run­ning back Mar­quis Ed­wards sprin­ted for 317 yards and six touch­downs. 

Quar­ter­back re­spons­ib­il­it­ies have been split between ju­ni­or toss­ers Har­old Al­ex­an­der and Daquan Bo­han­nan. Al­ex­an­der com­pleted 53 of 100 at­tempts for 1,064 yards and ten touch­downs. Bo­han­nan went 23-for-52 for 336 yards and five TDs. 

North­east’s of­fense ex­ploded this sea­son. The Vik­ings won four games by more than 30 points, in­clud­ing two shutouts. 

“The tra­di­tion of the game is ob­vi­ously very im­port­ant,” said Ri­ley. “Both teams could be 0-for-10 or 10-and-0 and it’s still any­one’s game. This game means a lot to both schools. And now that we lost to them in the play­offs, it means even more.”

The Vik­ings and Lan­cers will con­tin­ue their 115-year tra­di­tion on Thanks­giv­ing, Nov. 24, at Charlie Mar­tin Me­mori­al Sta­di­um. Game time is 10:30 a.m.

“Both schools have a very strong alumni,” said Drayton. “We get to see the alum come back and sup­port the young guys who are play­ing now. It’s a great tra­di­tion.” •• 

Ed­it­or Melissa Yerkov can be reached at my­

WHERE: Charlie Mar­tin Me­mori­al Sta­di­um

WHEN: Thursday, Nov. 24, at 10:30 a.m.

LAST YEAR: North­east won, 29-0


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