Paul is Glad to lead NE resurgence

All smiles: Paul, a Vir­gin­ia com­mit, is chas­ing a Pub­lic League title. ED MOR­RONE / TIMES PHOTO

With his col­lege de­cision already in hand, Gladi­mir Paul has just one more thing to check off his buck­et list: de­liv­er North­east its first league title in four years.

The 2010 cham­pi­on­ship sea­son wasn’t all that long ago, but a lot has happened since. For starters, Wash­ing­ton and Frank­ford have ruled the league, play­ing each oth­er for the last three cham­pi­on­ships. The Vik­ings also used three head coaches from 2011-13: Chris Ri­ley, who coached North­east to its most re­cent title, stepped down after 2011 to fo­cus on be­ing the school’s ath­let­ic dir­ect­or; he was fol­lowed by Jim Adams in 2012, who resigned after a year and gave way to former as­sist­ant Phil Gorm­ley. Gorm­ley, who got the job late last off­season without much time to pre­pare, led the Vik­ings to a 5-7 mark in 2013 and enters this sea­son much more com­fort­able, hop­ing to de­liv­er on a cam­paign that car­ries with it lofty ex­pect­a­tions.

But per­haps the biggest dif­fer­ence is hav­ing a seni­or lead­er of Paul’s caliber. Paul, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound de­fens­ive end/out­side line­back­er hy­brid, com­mit­ted last week to play his col­lege foot­ball at the Uni­versity of Vir­gin­ia in the ACC. He was just an eighth-grader the last time the Vik­ings won the league, and he aims to change that be­fore all is said and done.

“We feel that 2010 cham­pi­on­ship was a long time ago, and it’s something we want to re­gain,” Paul said dur­ing North­east’s Monday af­ter­noon prac­tice. “We’ve been work­ing out since Janu­ary, and we have the per­fect coach­ing staff and a lot of tal­ent on this team. I think we’re a pro­gram on the rise, and I’m just real ex­cited to get this year star­ted.”

North­east has cer­tainly had some re­cent not­able col­lege play­ers, namely De­ion Barnes, now a ju­ni­or de­fens­ive end at Penn State. However, fol­low­ing a couple of un­even sea­sons, hav­ing someone like Paul emerge has led to a re­sur­gence in ex­cite­ment for Vik­ing foot­ball sup­port­ers.

“I’m real happy about the pro­gram we have in place here, and I’m even hap­pi­er to be the guy the un­der­class­men look up to,” said Paul, who had an eye-pop­ping 28 sacks in 12 games last sea­son. “I want to put this pro­gram back on the map, to be that shin­ing star for North­east … it’s a role that I really ap­pre­ci­ate.”

Gorm­ley said Paul was vis­ited by at least two dozen coaches dur­ing the re­cruit­ing pro­cess, and many col­lege de­fens­ive co­ordin­at­ors marveled at how fast his first two steps off the line are. The fact that he’s a bit un­der­sized likely pre­ven­ted Paul from latch­ing on to an even big­ger pro­gram than Vir­gin­ia, but that hasn’t di­min­ished his en­thu­si­asm one bit.

“When you watch Glad on film, he just does things you can’t coach or teach,” Gorm­ley said. “He’s a very in­stinct­ive play­er, and he’s ri­dicu­lously fast. And he’s the lead­er of our team on both sides of the ball. He’s here every day out­work­ing every­one, beat­ing our run­ning back in sprints. When oth­er guys see that, it pushes them. He’s al­ways pos­it­ive. I’ve nev­er seen him say a neg­at­ive thing to a team­mate, even when someone makes a mis­take. His ma­tur­ity and the team’s pro­gres­sion from last year to this one really go hand-in-hand.”

Paul is North­east’s un­ques­tioned lead­er and best play­er, but he is only one part of a de­fens­ive unit ex­pec­ted to turn some heads in 2014. Along with line­back­er Steven Rowe, line­men Charles An­der­son and Vince Strat­ton and de­fens­ive back Asa Man­ley, the Vik­ings don’t have many weak spots and should be ex­cep­tion­ally stingy on the score­board.

The of­fense, which struggled to score points last sea­son, mainly due to the fact that Gorm­ley had to use four quar­ter­backs, should also be more so­lid­i­fied this year. Man­ley, after rush­ing for more than 800 yards as a ju­ni­or, has con­ver­ted to quar­ter­back, al­low­ing sopho­more Keith Moore to be­come the fea­tured back after tal­ly­ing 383 scores and three touch­downs in 2013. Paul, who also lines up at tight end, said to ex­pect a high-tempo, fast-paced “Chip Kelly-style of­fense.”

“We’re a team to look out for,” Paul said. “It will be noth­ing like last year, I can tell you that much. Every­body is a lot more pre­pared. We’re just a bet­ter team. Every­one’s eyes are on the prize, and that’s to win a Pub­lic League cham­pi­on­ship.”

While get­ting to his self-pro­fessed goal of 30 sacks may be a tad dif­fi­cult, Paul will cer­tainly be play­ing loose, es­pe­cially giv­en that his col­lege de­cision has already been made. He said that even though he feels like he doesn’t have much left to prove, he’s still play­ing with a chip on his shoulder to give him a men­tal edge between the lines. 

“Last year I was good, but ob­vi­ously that wasn’t good enough to beat Wash­ing­ton in the play­offs,” he said. “Last year I didn’t say much, but I’m try­ing to be a bet­ter vo­cal lead­er, a guy who can mo­tiv­ate his team­mates to win a cham­pi­on­ship. With the tal­ent we have and the hard work we’ve been put­ting in all off­season, we’re go­ing to make it far. I think we have what it takes to play in the cham­pi­on­ship and win it, without a doubt in my heart.”

As Fri­day morn­ing’s sea­son open­er at Abing­ton (10 a.m.) rap­idly ap­proaches, Paul and North­east’s quest for a title run be­gins now, and the team’s bright­est shin­ing star can’t wait to hit the grid­iron in a game that counts.

“I’m fired up, very ex­cited,” he said. “Every morn­ing the first thing that comes to my mind is Vik­ings foot­ball. One of my dreams is to lead this team to a cham­pi­on­ship, and I feel we have the tal­ent to dom­in­ate. Every­one is fo­cused and hungry.” ••

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