Die-hard Vikings squeeze into football playoffs

After losing their second-last game of the season to Holy Name by a lopsided 46-21 score, it seemed the VASJ Vikings’ chances of making the yearend football playoffs had gone up in smoke. The loss dropped them out of the top eight in the regional computer rankings.

At that point, even Coach John Storey expressed doubt that his squad had much hope of qualifying. “Our expectations for the season were higher,” he said in a rueful tone of voice. “However, we do have a chance to finish with a 6-4 record. It would be our first winning season since 2003.”

But as things turned out, VASJ also had a chance to make the playoffs, provided everything went the Vikings’ way on the final weekend. And, guess what--everything did!

Obviously the Viking players, especially the 20 seniors, hadn’t thrown in the towel on their season. On Oct. 29, they raced out to a 61-0 lead en route to steamrolling Gilmour, 61-13, to secure their sixth victory of the season. In that game, sturdy running back Tim Harrison again was a workhorse, rushing for 264 yards on just 12 carries (an average gain of 22 yards per carry).

Then, on Sunday, the St. Joe gridders learned that they had, indeed, made it into the Division VI playoffs as the No. 8 seed in Region 21. (Only the top eight teams in each region qualify.)

That was the good news. The bad news was that their first playoff opponent would be undefeated (10-0) Berlin Center Western Reserve, the No. 1 seed. Since the higher seed gets home-field advantage, the first-round game was tentatively scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 5 at Berlin Center.

Against Gilmour, a non-conference opponent, Harrison put on quite a show. The 5-10, 210-pound senior ripped off three long touchdown runs of 30, 80, and 56 yards as the Vikings jumped out to a 27-0 lead in the first quarter. A fourth opening period TD came on a 15-yard pass from quarterback Anthony Sywanyk to C. J. Germany, who entered the game with a team-leading 21 catches for 414 yards and six touchdowns. Germany scored again in the third quarter on a 44-yard punt return, bringing his season total to eight touchdowns.

Team co-captain Ryan Gallagher, a 6-foot-senior, also scored a pair of TDs, hauling in tosses of 27 and 7 yards from Sywanyk. A versatile ballplayer, Gallagher also carried the ball 10 times for 62 rushing yards.

Also getting into the scoring parade in the final game of the regular season were: 6-foot-5 defensive back Chavien Nolcox, on a 20-yard run with a recovered fumble, and 5-8 freshman Marvelle Ross on a 55-yard interception return. Kicker Connor Gail, a sophomore, was on target on seven extra point attempts.

Harrison also carried much of the load in the Holy Name game, gaining 245 rushing yards, giving him a total of 509 yards in the final two regular season games. For the full season, Harrison amassed 1,359 yards on 163 carries. Junior Devon Bolden also made his presence felt against the Green Wave with 159 yards on the ground.

On the defensive side, Coach Storey cited Nolcox, Gallagher, and 275-pound tackle Adam Scott for turning in “outstanding” performances. Nolcox had nine first-hit tackles and a pass breakup. Gallagher had eight tackles, including a big goal-line hit that prevented a touchdown, and also caused a fumble. Scott recorded six tackles and two assists. “That’s pretty good for an inside player who is often getting double-teamed,” Storey noted.

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.

Read More on Sports
Volume 2, Issue 9, Posted 5:00 PM, 12.31.2011