October 19, 2018
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  • Northeast football is 5-1 through six weeks, and a playoff berth appears very likely for the Eagles, who play Southern in week seven and Severna Park in week eight.
    Photo by Colin Murphy
    Northeast football is 5-1 through six weeks, and a playoff berth appears very likely for the Eagles, who play Southern in week seven and Severna Park in week eight.

Forcing The Issue: Northeast Football Is For Real, And The Eagles' Goals Are Shifting

Colin Murphy
View Bio
October 9, 2018

A version of this article will appear in the October issue of the Pasadena Voice, in home mailboxes Oct. 16.

Expectations have changed in Pasadena.

At the beginning of the 2018 football season, one line of prognosticating went something like this: Chesapeake and Northeast could both be pretty good this year. Maybe the Dena Bowl in week 10 will decide who goes to the 3A East playoffs.

With the Cougars (6-0) and the Eagles (5-1) currently occupying the region’s top two playoff spots, the Eagles are changing their tune.

“We’re not concerned with getting [into the playoffs] now,” said head coach Brian Baublitz ahead of a film session with the Eagles in the Northeast media center on October 8. “We’re going to get in. Whether it’s this week or next week or whatever. We want the No. 1 seed. We always shoot high. We don’t shoot low anymore. At the beginning of the season the goal was to make the playoffs. We’re going to make the playoffs. The goal is the No. 1 seed now.”

You can’t fault Baublitz’s confidence, especially after the Eagles made perhaps their biggest statement yet with a 36-28 win at Annapolis on October 5. Josh Krcik starred for Northeast, rushing for 161 yards on 18 carries with three touchdowns and three 2-point conversions and adding 58 return yards in the victory.

Ethan Young complemented Krcik’s day with 106 rushing yards on 18 carries, while Danny Baker carried 16 times for 66 yards on a day when quarterback Riley Pitt only had to throw four times.

Coaches and administrators at Northeast didn’t know how long it had been since the Eagles beat Annapolis—that’s how long it had been. Last year, the Eagles lost their homecoming game to Annapolis 18-15 after failing to convert a fourth-and-inches that would have iced the win.

This year, the Eagles finished the job and won—on Annapolis’ homecoming.

“It was a good accomplishment to beat Annapolis for how long it’s been since we beat Annapolis,” said Krcik. “As a team, as a whole, our line, I’ve got to give a lot of credit to the line. They did a good job blocking on offense, and they were pounding it on defense. Our linebackers were stopping their key guys at quarterback and running back. We had a good game as a whole.”

Baublitz said it was “kind of the first game this year that all three phases of the game contributed.”

Defensively, the team bottled up Annapolis’ Ahmon Middleton, who had entered the game as the county’s leading rusher with 713 yards and nine touchdowns in five games. The Eagles held Middleton to 75 yards rushing and touchdown, and he only amassed 30 yards through the first three quarters.

Aiden Barnhart led the Eagles with seven tackles, while JanMichael Finch had four, Stephen Haley had three, Young had three, Pitt had three and Matt Wukitch, Miles Macon, Jayden Roberts, Grayson Biekert and Nick Vogel all had two.

Finch sealed the game by thumping Annapolis’ punt returner and recovering a fumble when the Panthers could have fielded a punt late in the fourth quarter and had a chance to come down the field and score.

“Finch blew up the returner and picked up the fumble,” said Baublitz. “The offense picked up a first down, and we took a knee. Every aspect of the team came together for that win.”

The Eagles led by 24 points entering the fourth quarter, but Annapolis scored two touchdowns in under a minute to make it a one-possession game. Baublitz said the team learned a valuable lesson about finishing strong, and Krcik agrees.

“We’ve got to finish. That is a big part of our team,” said Krcik. “We’ve got to learn, when is the right time to pretty much just put the game away, no slacking or nothing. The fourth quarter is ours. We have to take over the fourth quarter and play from the beginning of the game to the end of the game, 48 minutes.”

The team continues to surge forward in a season when many people expected the bad Northeast teams of years ago or the respectable Northeast teams of the past two years. At 5-1 through six weeks, Northeast has forced the conversation in their direction.

One big reason is the play of the offensive line. Barnhart, Vogel, Cruz Maez, Brandon Baublitz, Finch and Haley are clearing the way for Northeast’s dynamic corps of runners in Krcik, Young, Danny Baker, Pitt and Bennett Diaz prior to the latter’s foot injury. Baker ran for 229 yards and three touchdowns in the Eagles’ week-four win over Cape Henlopen, and the line has enabled great success running the ball for Northeast.

Lineman Brandon Baublitz said the mentality is to relentlessly force the issue.

“Just keep pounding it, putting it down their throats, going as hard as you can every play,” said Baublitz. He said the linemen pride themselves on strength and conditioning and have seen the rewards of the offseason hours spent in the weight room. “Now it’s different,” he said. “We like to stay in the weight room. The seniors really push staying in the weight room. It’s just fun being stronger than everyone else.”

With the season past the halfway point, a playoff berth is likely. Chesapeake leads the 3A East with a 6-0 record and 48 points in the MPSSAA point standings. Northeast is right behind with a 5-1 record and 38 points. J.M. Bennett (5-1, 27 points) and Long Reach (4-2, 26 points) currently occupy the last two playoff spots. The top four teams in each region receive playoff berths.

With games against Southern and Severna Park in the next two weeks, Northeast can only strengthen its bid to climb the point standings.

Krcik said that every game is an opportunity, and Northeast’s best effort is yet to be seen.

“We haven’t played our perfect game yet,” said Krcik. “It’s coming.”

Video highlights of Northeast's win over Annapolis:

Video courtesy of Mike Pitt

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