NORTH EAST – The longer the wait, the sweeter the celebration.
Just ask the North East Indians (1-6), who earned their long-awaited first win of the season last Friday night against the Havre de Grace Warriors (0-7), a victory made even sweeter by a loud-and-proud senior-night crowd that cheered them on the entire way.
“The energy was great, it was great all night and the boys were fired up,” said Taylor Slaughenhoupt, the Indians’ head coach. “Our big thing this week was, being that it was senior night, leaving a memory out on the field and leaving everything you had out there. Not even just the seniors, but everybody, upperclassmen on down.”
It didn’t take long for the Indians to electrify the crowd.
After a scoreless first quarter on both sides, North East junior kicker Evan England nailed a 46-yard field goal to give the Indians an early 3-0 lead, a kick that Slaughenhoupt said “had to be a school record.”
The story of the game, however, was the Keefer-to-Rivera connection, which was scalding hot for most of the night.
Luke Keefer, the Indians’ senior starting quarterback, threw for 173 yards (and ran for another 43 with a touchdown), with 131 of them going to senior wide receiver Marcus Rivera on just three catches, including both of Keefer’s touchdown throws.
The play of the night came in the third quarter, when Keefer found Rivera streaking down the right sideline, dialed up a beautiful pass, hit him in stride and Rivera did the rest, blazing to the end zone untouched as the Indians took a 24-6 lead.
“The connection with Luke and really all of the receivers, that’s something they’ve been working on is really building the connection, building the time and it paid off on Friday,” Slaughenhoupt said. “I was happy to see (Rivera) have a night like that.”
As has been the case all season, the Indians’ defense came to play against the Warriors, too, limiting them to just six points and forcing three turnovers in the process, with senior linebacker RJ Boyd getting credit for two fumble recoveries and senior linebacker Raheam Hart notching an interception in the win.
“We just really made some plays on Friday,” Slaughenhoupt said. “And that’s what we’ve been missing the whole year.”
North East looks to earn its second win in a row with a tough matchup against the Patterson Mill Huskies (6-1) this Friday, while Havre de Grace visits the Perryville Panthers (3-4) for the Susky Bowl.
“This week, we’ll come out and focus on having a good week of practice and preparing for Patterson Mill,” Slaughenhoupt said, “just building off of the momentum and the good things that we did on Friday in order to come out and give those guys a game.”