Banged up Vikings hoping to bounce back

Des­pite deal­ing with a rash of in­jur­ies lead­ing to an 0-3 start, North­east heads in­to di­vi­sion play with a clean slate.

Grow­ing pains: Fresh­man Keith Moore leads North­east in rush­ing through three games. BILL ACHUFF / FOR THE TIMES

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.” ••

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