Grange, Bohannon too much for Lincoln to handle

Rush­awn Grange (cen­ter, with ball) had a great Week 2, rush­ing for 160 yards on 20 car­ries in North­east’s 26-6 win over Lin­coln. DONNA DIPAOLO / FOR THE TIMES


With the game already well in hand Fri­day night at North­east High School’s Charles Mar­tin Sta­di­um, Rush­awn Grange was bask­ing in his team’s in­ev­it­able vic­tory when he no­ticed a re­port­er nearby on the side­line.

“Hey, you’re writ­ing an art­icle about us in the pa­per?” he asked. “Talk to me after the game…don’t for­get.”

With the way Grange played, he’d be pretty dif­fi­cult to for­get.

Grange, a sopho­more run­ning back for the Vik­ings, rushed for 160 yards on 20 car­ries in North­east’s 26-6 win over Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln. He also caught two passes for 17 yards, and was one of sev­er­al key con­trib­ut­ors who de­livered Jim Adams his first ca­reer win as North­east’s head coach. In the team’s post­game huddle, it was soon real­ized that the Vik­ings failed to give Adams a cel­eb­rat­ory Gat­o­rade bath — a foot­ball tra­di­tion for mile­stone coach­ing vic­tor­ies — a sign that this young team is still learn­ing.

“We’re very young,” Grange ac­know­ledged after the game. “We have to come to­geth­er, and we aren’t fully there yet. But I love my team. When we put it all to­geth­er, we can be un­stop­pable.”

That re­mains to be seen, but if the Vik­ings play all sea­son the way they did Fri­day night, they won’t be a pushover when di­vi­sion powers Frank­ford and Wash­ing­ton come knock­ing. A week re­moved from an ugly 24-0 loss at the hands of sub­urb­an power Abing­ton — the Vik­ings didn’t ad­vance the ball bey­ond mid­field — Grange and com­pany punched holes in Lin­coln’s de­fense all night.

Be­cause the two area rivals play in dif­fer­ent di­vi­sions with­in the Pub­lic League (North­east is in the more ad­vanced Gold Di­vi­sion, while Lin­coln plays one rung be­low in the Sil­ver), this was a non-league game, but the Vik­ings (1-1) didn’t treat it like one.

After the Railsplit­ters (0-2) marched down the field on the game’s open­ing drive in just four plays to take a 6-0 lead, North­east fumbled the ball away on its third of­fens­ive pos­ses­sion. Un­deterred, the Vik­ing de­fense forced a fumble of its own two plays later, and after two runs from Grange total­ing 41 yards, seni­or quar­ter­back Daquan Bo­han­non knot­ted the score at 6 with a 9-yard touch­down run.

Two plays later, North­east’s de­fense was at it again. Lin­coln quar­ter­back Miguel Sanc­hez dropped back for a pass at his own 37 and was bull­dozed by de­fens­ive back Daeson Moore, who powered through the line on a blitz; the ball squir­ted free, and line­man An­thony Pul­li­am picked it up and scampered un­touched for a 37-yard score. The de­fens­ive score made it 12-6, and North­east cruised the rest of the way. The Vik­ings de­fens­ive unit held Lin­coln to 31 yards on 19 car­ries and lim­ited the Railsplit­ters to 98 yards of total of­fense for the game.

“You can’t really say enough about how well the de­fense played to­night,” said Bo­han­non, who threw for 119 yards and one touch­down while rush­ing for 26 yards and two more on the ground. “They stayed stingy after the first drive and made it easy for us out there.”

The 20-point vic­tory was a com­ing-out party for Grange, who played mostly as a third-stringer his fresh­man sea­son and gained just four yards on five car­ries against Abing­ton. Against Lin­coln, he set the tone by gain­ing 71 yards in the first quarter and helped close out the Railsplit­ters with 47 in the fourth. The 5-foot-8 tail­back was all smiles af­ter­ward, as his two rows of braces shone bright­er than the sta­di­um lights il­lu­min­at­ing the night sky.

“Over the sum­mer, I had the mind­set that I was go­ing to come here and start,” he said.

Though they were in cel­eb­ra­tion mode on Fri­day, there will be a lot the Vik­ings will need to fix be­fore play­ing at Frank­ford, one of the di­vi­sion’s fa­vor­ites, in two weeks. For starters, the coaches seemed per­turbed at too many fool­ish pen­al­ties, and the team needs to work on fin­ish­ing after a touch­down. Three of the Vik­ings’ four point-after con­ver­sions failed.

It’s safe to say the team is happy, but not sat­is­fied. “We still need to gel to­geth­er as a team,” Bo­han­non ac­know­ledged. “But if we keep prac­ti­cing and we keep work­ing hard, then I feel like we can beat teams like Frank­ford and Wash­ing­ton on any giv­en day. To­night, we wanted it more, and it’s go­ing to have to stay that way. I like the way it felt…to see every­one click­ing on all cyl­in­ders like that. It was a great bounce back after the first game, and it gave us the con­fid­ence we needed.”

While the Vik­ings are still work­ing their way back to the form of a team that won the Pub­lic League cham­pi­on­ship in 2010, the young­sters con­tin­ue to ma­ture. Dur­ing the game, Grange ran with con­fid­ence; af­ter­ward, he spoke with it, show­ing signs of a matur­ing play­er.

“I got the hang of it (be­ing a varsity play­er) last year, but I wasn’t ready yet,” he said. “I had the same tal­ent, but I had a lot of work to do. Ever since the off­season when I was run­ning in the heat in weight vests, I just had that feel­ing. I know I’m a starter, but I have to keep fight­ing, be­cause the next guy in line wants my po­s­i­tion. You can’t take it for gran­ted.

“When you’re start­ing, you have to keep push­ing, no mat­ter what,” he con­tin­ued. “I wanted to get in the end zone so bad, and it was in my head. I was hungry for it. I didn’t get it, but I got the big yards be­cause of the of­fense and my of­fens­ive line. I can’t do it on my own, and they’ve all helped me so much, es­pe­cially Bo (Bo­han­non). We have a real good con­nec­tion.”

Count Bo­han­non, the seni­or, im­pressed by Grange, the sopho­more.

“He fol­lowed his blocks, made his cuts and kept his head up the field,” said Bo­han­non, who later scored on a 1-yard touch­down run and hit Har­old Al­ex­an­der for a 16-yard TD strike early in the fourth quarter. “He found his holes, and he hit them.”

It re­mains to be seen how North­east will stack up in a bru­tally tough Gold Di­vi­sion (Frank­ford, Wash­ing­ton, Ger­man­town and Cent­ral all boast strong teams), but for this night, Adams’ first win as a head coach, they just wanted to en­joy the mo­ment.

“I had a lot of fun…a lot of fun,” a still-smil­ing Grange said. “It was ex­cit­ing to be a part of Coach Adams’ first win. Be­ing on the field and hav­ing a say in the out­come, I loved it.” ••

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