Vikings begin stretch run, host Trinity on Oct. 8
After earning a hard-fought 14-6 triumph over Warren JFK, the Villa Angela-St. Joseph football squad endured a pair of losses that may have caused some fans to lose hope regarding the Vikings’ chances of either winning a league title or making the playoffs this year.
But those fans may be in for a surprise. It’s far too early to throw in the towel on a season that began with such great promise.
The two losses—by a score of 49-7 to Columbus Bishop Hartley, the undefeated defending state champions in Division IV, and by a narrow 13-6 margin to North Coast League rival Cleveland Central Catholic—by no means eliminated the Vikings as contenders for the NCL White Division crown.
For one thing, Hartley is not an NCL school, so that setback doesn’t affect the conference standings. For another, the schedule gets a bit easier in the coming weeks.
Coach John Storey’s Vikings host Trinity Oct. 8 in their final home game at Euclid Stadium. The Trojans come in with an 0-1 mark in the NCL and 1-5 overall, after recording their first victory of the season by a 28-6 score against Gilmour, a non-conference opponent.
Then, on Oct. 14, the VASJ gridders travel to St. Peter Chanel for a 7 p.m. contest with the Firebirds, who are 0-1 in the NCL and 1-5 overall.
A much bigger hurdle awaits the following week when the Vikings clash with Holy Name in an Oct. 22 “away” game that could prove to be a showdown for White Division supremacy. After pummeling Chanel, 41-7, the Green Wave now stands at 1-0 in the NCL and 3-3 overall.
Currently, the Vikings (1-1, 3-3) are in the middle of the pack, but within striking distance of the league leaders. Prior to the loss to Central Catholic, VASJ stood in fifth place in the Division VI, Region 21 computer rankings, putting them in position to make the year-end state playoffs. Provided, that is, that they chalk up a few more wins.
Now let’s go back a couple of weeks to the Sept. 17 triumph over Warren JFK that enhanced the Vikings’ prestige in high school football circles. It showed that, despite having quite a few two-way players, they are capable of mustering a strong finish. In that game, they broke open a scoreless contest when junior tailback Devon Bolden scooted into the end zone from the 1-yard line, putting VASJ ahead, 7-0.
Protecting their lead, the Vikings’ defense stiffened to halt a JFK drive that had moved the ball deep into St. Joe territory. First, co-captain Ryan Gallagher made a key tackle for a loss to put the Warren team in a third-and-18 hole. Then senior linebacker Chris Pokorny made a big stop to force a fourth-down field goal attempt. Putting an exclamation point on the defensive effort, sophomore defensive back Tyler Cruickshank blocked the kick.
In the final quarter, senior wide receiver C. J. Germany hauled in a beautiful arching pass from quarterback Anthony Sywanyk on a 47-yard scoring play to increase the VASJ lead to 14-0.
Pacing the Vikings’ offensive attack against JFK, senior running back Tim Harrison rushed for 73 yards on 11 carries and Devon Bolden added another 32 yards on the ground. Harrison “does a solid job on both offense and defense,” says Coach Storey. “He’s playing hard and going both ways.” On defense, Harrison had three tackles for losses.
Other key defensive contributors included senior linebacker DiAnte Jackson, who recorded two quarterback sacks, and senior linebacker Chavien Nolcox, who had one sack, 10 first-hit tackles, and one recovered fumble. “For that game, Chavien was the leader on the defensive production chart,” Coach Storey noted.
In the loss to Central Catholic, VASJ was outgained in total yardage, 334 to 243, but quarterback Anthony Sywanyk completed nine of his 20 pass attempts for 120 yards. Tim Harrison rushed for 102 yards on 24 carries. And C. J. Germany scored the Vikings’ lone TD, hauling in a 42-yard pass from Sywanyk.
Asked a few weeks back whether the Vikings were excited to learn about their No. 5 position in the regional computer rankings, Coach Storey said he hadn’t heard any of his players talking about it.
"It’s too early to get excited,” he said. “We’ll get excited if we’re in this position after the last game of the season.”
PHOTO E – (No. 981 on chip) … One of three photos on Viking football team.
STRATEGY SESSION – VASJ Head Coach John Storey (left, in red shirt with back to camera) huddles with his gridders near the end of the game with Columbus Bishop Hartley. Since the Vikings were trailing badly at the time, perhaps they were looking for a way to prevent Hartley, the undefeated defending Division IV state champs, from scoring 50 or more points. The Vikes lost, 49-7. Identifiable players are team co-captain Ryan Gallagher (No. 20) and defensive back Tyler Cruickshank (No. 16).
PHOTO F – (No. 993 on chip) …If this is used, please run big enough that readers will be able to read the scoreboard.
“NOW WHAT DO WE DO?” – An assistant coach seems to find it hard to believe that his Vikings were trailing Bishop Hartley by six touchdowns in the late stages of the late September game. The scoreboard tells the discouraging story. PHOTO G – (No. 993 on chip) … … Run as a horizontal shot, at least 2 columns wide.
LOOKING FOR RUNNING ROOM –Viking tailback Devon Bolden (No. 22) tries to elude two Bishop Hartley defenders on this run wide to the left. The junior speed merchant finished the game with 35 rushing yards against the tough Hartley defense. The defending Division IV state champs held the VASJ ground attack to a mere 44 yards. (Photo by John Sheridan)
Retired journalist. From 1963 to 1972, wrote for and edited the Euclid News-Journal, predecessor to the Sun-Journal. From 1972 to 2000, I was a writer and editor for Industry Week magazine. Also have worked for the Plain Dealer as a part-time sportswriter, covering high school sports. And I was a contributor to the previous Euclid Observer. I have lived in Euclid for almost my entire life. I am a graduate of St. Joseph High School and John Carroll University.