September 26, 2017
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  • Players took instruction from Northeast coach Brian Baublitz during a preseason training session this August. “We don’t hide from nothing around here, and we’re not going to,” Baublitz said. “Our expectations are going to be to make the playoffs. We’re going to try to make the playoffs every year.”
    Photo by Colin Murphy
    Players took instruction from Northeast coach Brian Baublitz during a preseason training session this August. “We don’t hide from nothing around here, and we’re not going to,” Baublitz said. “Our expectations are going to be to make the playoffs. We’re going to try to make the playoffs every year.”

Northeast Football Enters Camp With High Hopes, Big Goals

Colin Murphy
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August 21, 2017

The Northeast football team returns to campus this August with an invigorated sense of optimism for a successful fall campaign.

While last season’s 3-7 record doesn’t inspire hope on paper, the Eagles have been quietly making strides and building respectability, and the team foresees a possible tipping point in 2017. Northeast’s upperclassmen-heavy lineup of 24 seniors returns nine starters on offense and nine starters on defense, and an offseason’s worth of strength and conditioning have the program aiming higher than they have in any preseason in years.

“In the offseason, we put in a lot of work in the weight room getting stronger and coming together as a team,” said senior do-everything runningback/receiver/returner/corner Davon Carroll at the team’s final preseason practice without pads and helmets. “Back together now, we’re just trying to bring everything together as a unit.”

Several impact players at key positions figure to give Northeast a chance in every matchup this season. Carroll and fellow senior DeMontay Snowden will doubtlessly be a headache for opposing defenses. As dual-sport athletes in football and track and field — Snowden runs a 4.52-second 40-yard dash, while Carroll clocks a 4.41 — the Eagles have two of the county’s most explosive athletes in their backfield.

“We’re going to have a fairly fast backfield,” was the understatement offered by second-year head coach Brian Baublitz. “[Davon and DeMontay] are undersized kids, but they’re football players, and they’re fast and elusive and don’t get big hits on them.”

At quarterback, senior Anthony Vallinotti and junior Danny Baker are battling for the starting nod and offer Baublitz options and depth, and Vallinotti will also play some safety on defense. Senior Brandon Choinski — dubbed “Tank” by coaches and teammates — returns after missing 2016 with an injury, and at 245 pounds will play a key role at guard on offense and at middle linebacker on defense. Baublitz noted that Choinski was the only Eagle to hit all six benchmarks in the Eagles’ pro-style combine drills that measure proficiency in the shuttle run, 40-yard dash, vertical leap, broad jump, bench press and squat.

Junior Josh Krcik is another speedy weapon at wide receiver, and fellow junior Bennett Diaz worked his way into the starting rotation by midseason as a sophomore last year at strong-side outside linebacker; Diaz will also see snaps as a backup wing on offense. Senior Dalton Milliken is the starting center and will play some on defense.

With only a little over 80 kids total in the program, Baublitz nonetheless likes the experience and added size of his older roster, especially on the line.

“We’ve got a big offensive line, average weight of about 270 to 280, but it’s not just their size, it’s their athleticism and quick feet we’re excited about,” said Baublitz.

Players and coaches alike noted the increased speed and athleticism gained from almost nine months of intense conditioning. The players were in the weight room together during the offseason, and they made a statement with last spring’s tug-of-war victory over Arundel, Broadneck and Annapolis.

“It was like two weeks after last season ended when we started workouts, and ever since then we’ve been in the weight room and out here running, working hard, putting in the work,” said Choinski. “Even in the tug of war, it showed. We’ve gotten stronger. In the seven-on-seven [summer league], we’ve gotten faster. All this work we’ve put in for [this season], because 3-7 is not where we want to be.”

Add to that the team’s ‘Dena Bowl victory over Chesapeake last season — Northeast’s first since 2010 — as well as a season-ending win over South River, and the team has notched a string of positives it can build on.

Two new wrinkles add intrigue to Northeast’s bid for a winning season. The first is a realignment in the 3A regions that decreases the overall number of teams in the 3A East fighting for a playoff spot to nine. Centennial High School of Howard County dropped its football program for 2017, lowering the number of football teams to eight. The 3A East now has less teams than any region in any classification in the state.

The second wrinkle is that the annual ‘Dena Bowl was moved from Week 6 in early October to Week 10 in early November, a decision made jointly between the schools and the county.

“The county did an outstanding job by moving that Chesapeake game to the last game, because the quality program that coach [Rob] Elliott is putting together there, that game might very well have some playoff implications in the 3A,” said Baublitz.

Imagine both teams entering the Week 10 ‘Dena Bowl at, say, 5-4, where a rivalry win could mean another year of bragging rights and a trip to the playoffs.

Because of the realignment and the fact that Northeast plays most of its games against 4A competition, Baublitz thinks a 6-4 record or even a 5-5 mark could sneak his side into the playoffs.

He’s not shy about stating the Eagles’ goal.

“We don’t hide from nothing around here, and we’re not going to,” Baublitz said. “Our expectations are going to be to make the playoffs. We’re going to try to make the playoffs every year.”

Choinski said the team’s stated playoff goals are made realistic by a refreshed culture at Northeast. “There’s been this Northeast culture that’s been all losing. We don’t want that anymore. That’s not acceptable. So, Coach B has been on us about not accepting that and always pushing and pushing and pushing. This year, it’s just been completely different. They’ve been pressing on us a lot more about working hard, getting on each other. Through all that, we’ve come together as a team. We’ve bonded. Instead of a bunch of different groups, we’ve come together as one team.”

Asked about the growth of the program over the course of last season and the offseason, Carroll agreed, saying there’s a greater sense of pride now to being an Eagle football player.

“It’s great,” he said. “The new coaches, the team’s getting better, and it feels better to be an Eagle, so it’s great.”


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