It’s been a rough season for the Northeast High School football team. After making school history last year — claiming their first Public League title since 1983 — the defending champion Vikings endured a roller-coaster ride of triumphs and heartbreaks.
Northeast finished the season 3-3 in league play and 7-5 overall. They struggled against divisional foes like Frankford and Washington and were ejected in the first round of the postseason upon losing to Central High.
On Thanksgiving Day, the Vikings got a second chance.
And they did not disappoint.
Once again facing the mighty Lancers — who finished first in the Silver Division, going undefeated in league play and 8-3 overall — Northeast feasted upon a little revenge on Thanksgiving morning, claiming a 27-20 victory. Northeast now leads the series 55-51-10 and extended its Thanksgiving streak to seven consecutive wins.
“It feels real good. We got a good win,” said junior running back Shimeek Carter, who led the Vikings in rushing with 98 yards on Thanksgiving. “The team came together. We had a horrible season, a horrible season as a team, but today we just came in and fought hard and worked together like a family, like we should be.”
Swarms of alumni packed Charlie Martin Memorial Stadium on Thursday’s balmy morning. Both sides were cheered by fans waving homemade signs; cheerleaders performed alongside their school marching bands, adding to the festive atmosphere.
Northeast’s Daquan White wasted no time putting his squad on the scoreboard. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound senior scored back to back touchdowns, giving Northeast a hefty 12-0 lead. Senior kicker Howard Lynn added an extra point, making it 13-0.
Central retaliated quickly, courtesy of scores from Eric Thomas and Rich Drayton. By halftime, Northeast led, 13-12.
After an ugly third quarter marred by turnovers, the Vikings took control of the game, scoring two touchdowns within two minutes. Carter rushed for the first. Senior wide receiver Chris Gary caught a scoring pass for the other. Both extra-point kicks were good.
With the score 27-12, Central scored on a touchdown by senior quarterback Ryan Dydak, who then connected with Drayton for a two-point conversion.
Final score: Northeast, 27; Central, 20.
“We had a lot of ups and downs. In the long run, when you look back on it and realize, we were a pretty good team,” said Northeast coach Chris Riley. “We never got over the hill to become a great team, which I think they could have. They’re a good team and that’s why they finished the year with this win.”
Northeast quarterback Daquan Bohannan was almost perfect on the day, connecting on six of eight passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns. Central’s tosser, Dydak, went 10-for-19 for 101 yards and one TD.
“Today, we were ready to win. We knew that we were going to win so we just came out as a team and got the win for our seniors,” said Carter. “This is the last game they’ll play at Charles Martin Memorial Stadium.
“It feels real good to end it on a win because I’m close with all of them (seniors),” Carter added. “I feel so close to this group right here. They’re like family, so I guess that’s why I’m spending Thanksgiving Day with them.”
Last week’s contest was Carter’s first full game since suffering a shoulder injury during the Vikings’ Oct. 7 game against Germantown. Carter was making a tackle when he severely strained the nerves in his neck and shoulder. He was forced to the sidelines and seldom contributed during Northeast’s second half of the season.
“The doctor cleared me, so I’m good to play,” said Carter. “Today I had fresh legs, a fresh body. I came out and played hard, got a touchdown and some key first downs. It was good.”
Despite limited playing time, Carter put together some impressive numbers this season. He led his team in rushing with 576 yards. He also was the second-highest scorer on his team with eight touchdowns.
“Zone running — he’s one of the best in the city,” said Riley. “He’s low to the ground, a great, lean kid. We always say he’s like a skier out there. He has wide-open vision. He sees every hole through the field and can zip through.”
A three-year varsity player, Carter will return as a senior next season and try to guide the Vikings back to Public League glory. In the meantime, he can enjoy the sweet taste of victory with yet another Thanksgiving Day triumph.
“Now I get to enjoy a turkey dinner in South Philly with my family and have fun today,” said Carter. “I can just go home with a smile on my face. I’ll have good dreams tonight about this game. It’s a good feeling.” ••
Editor Melissa Yerkov can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org