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Northeast needs to remain healthy

By BOB PUTNAM

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 30, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- Throughout 2000, Northeast looked like a fife and drum corps. Almost everybody on the roster was bruised, bandaged or broken.

ST. PETERSBURG -- Throughout 2000, Northeast looked like a fife and drum corps. Almost everybody on the roster was bruised, bandaged or broken.

With several starters missing due to injury and others who were benched or left the team, the Vikings watched their county record 43-game win streak end in the first week, and they limped to a 3-7 record.

"Injuries just killed us," coach Jerry Austin said. "By the end, we had defensive backs playing linebacker. The bottom line was we got down. Then we got hurt. It was bad."

Therefore, all prognostications for this season come equipped with a disclaimer about the health of the team, bringing new meaning to the term make-or-break season.

So far, the injury report is short. As a bonus, Northeast had 48 players come out for fall practice, allowing Austin to limit the two-way players.

Most of this year's team is underclassmen. That was by design. Last season, Austin weeded out the good from the bad and kept those who would be around for the long haul.

"When you've got an old house, sometimes you have to take a broom to it," Austin said. "I knew we weren't going to be as good as some of the other teams we had, but I thought the same thing the year before and we went undefeated. So this is what happens.

"Sometimes, you have to shake the foundation before you can build it up again."

THROUGH THE AIR: Andrew Harris, the quarterback and team leader for the past two seasons, graduated and is at Central Florida. Taking over is his younger brother, Josh, a junior.

Austin said he planned on using Josh at quarterback last season, which would have allowed Andrew to concentrate on defensive back. But Josh tore up his knee before the season and missed the entire year.

Harris will have three main targets -- senior Martin Teal and juniors Jeraun Green and Ryan Ross.

ON THE GROUND: Ernest Fields, Dominique Flower and Derek Washington will share time in the backfield and benefit from an experienced offensive line.

Russ Tyson, a state champion in the shot put and a three-year starter, anchors a line that features fellow seniors Jason Miller, William Cate and Frank Eads.

DE-FENSE! DE-FENSE! Dominque Bacon, William Davis, Richard Evans and Antonio Williams are the headliners on the front seven. Issac Jones, Richard Adams and Deontae Poole patrol the secondary.

JUST FOR KICKS: Kelly Dewitt will handle the kicking and punting chores.

NORTHEAST VIKINGS AT A GLANCE

COACH: Jerry Austin, 23rd season (160-76)

ASSISTANTS: Jay Austin, Shawn Austin, Bob Celeste, Jim Cornillaud, Brian Goldych, Roman Johnson, Todd Weber

COLORS: Red and white

STADIUM: John Sexton Stadium, 1717 54th Ave. N, St. Petersburg

CLASS: 5A, District 8

PLAYOFF HISTORY

ROUND OF 32: 1999 (4A)

ROUND OF 16: 1995 (5A), 1998 (5A)

QUARTERFINALS: 1996 (5A)

SEMIFINALS: 1997 (5A)

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