Truth be told, this one was over in the first quarter.
Maybe even earlier.
In its two previous encounters with rugged opponents, Northeast High School’s football team had encountered a litany of injuries. So by the time Friday night’s game against visiting Father Judge began, the Vikings were already shorthanded eight members from the season’s initial starting lineup.
“We were very beat up,” said Northeast first-year coach Phil Gormley. “Physically, things started taking their toll.”
By the time it was over, Father Judge had scored points in every quarter and defeated Northeast, 37-0. For the Crusaders, it was their second consecutive shutout and, counting a whitewash of Lincoln on Thanksgiving Day last fall, third in four games.
As good as his opponent was, Gormley didn’t exactly feel like discussing the 2-1 Crusaders, not with his Vikings staring at an 0-3 abyss.
“They have a decent team,” Gormley said. “They played well. But I’m focused on our guys. We have to get healthy and have a good week of practice. We have to get better, and fast.”
Judge’s offensive and defensive lines manhandled the Vikings, resulting in four scoring runs and a touchdown pass. Judge led by 14-0 after one quarter, 17-0 after two, and 31-0 after three.
Most of the damage was done on the ground behind senior Marquis Seamon (10 carries, 67 yards, two touchdowns), sophomore Yeedee Thaenrat (12, 77, TD) and senior Kevin Kovacs (5, 50, TD). Junior quarterback Zach Carroll also connected with junior Clayton Rush for a 32-yard touchdown, and senior kicker Connor Foley added a 32-yard field goal.
For the Vikings, the only offensive spark occurred via two receptions by senior Jordan Todd. The running game produced several plays of negative yardage.
“We were down to (several) third-string players on offense, so we had about half of the playbook to rely on and had to throw out the rest,” Gormley said. “We tried to keep it simple.
“At halftime, we tried our best to regroup, but it didn’t get much better in the second half. Later on, we were just hoping to run the clock and get out of there with no more injuries.”
Gormley said the Vikings “understood what our situation was” and probably “would have been more demoralized” at such a lopsided loss had the squad’s more experienced players been available.
“As it was, we were shorthanded, so instead of being devastated, I think they took the loss in stride,” Gormley said. “And although you never want to go through something like this, a lot of times there are players who step up and gain some valuable experience that helps the team later on.”
Those Vikings who performed particularly well in defeat included senior two-way tackle Will Okrafo-Smart and junior two-way end Gladimir Paul.
“Will is very bright who can do a lot of things,” Gormley said. “He’s a great football player. With Gladimir, he is on the field every play except on kickoffs. He’s going to move from (tight end) to tackle and that will allow us to do some things. He gives us a lot.”
Up next for Northeast on Friday night is a key home-field battle with Public League Gold Division foe Frankford, also winless after three tries. Like Northeast, the reigning Public League champs struggled against several formidable challengers and figure to anxiously await an opportunity to eliminate early disappointment.
While some starters figure to return, the Vikings will be missing junior starting center Charles Anderson, thanks to a high ankle sprain that will require some significant time to heal.
With yet another addition of gridiron calamities, Gormley remains level headed.
“It’s football,” he said. “It’s a physical game. When you don’t have a lot of depth, these injuries hurt you even more. Hopefully, they make you a stronger team.
“We tell our kids that games are won in January, February and March. That’s when you’re in the weight room. This is the time when all the hard work begins to help you.”
After Frankford comes the rest of the Gold Division – Fels, Central, Furness and Washington. For what it’s worth, the rest of those five teams are a collective 1-14 after three weeks, so it’s not like Northeast is enduring this tough stretch without cause for optimism; as of this moment, it doesn’t appear that anyone is an odds-on favorite to dominate the rest of the division.
“Like in the Catholic League, all it takes is a win or two and you can make the playoffs, so we have a chance to feel a lot better about ourselves,” Gormley said. “I think we can do that, and I think our players feel that way, too.” ••