Grovonte Stewart couldn’t believe how wide open he was — twice.
The senior receiver hauled in two long first-quarter touchdown passes to spark Northeast’s 46-12 thrashing of Christian Life Academy in a District 6-2A showdown Friday night. Stewart, who finished with three catches for 156 yards, was completely uncovered on an 85-yard strike that put the Vikings (4-1, 2-0) ahead 26-0.
“We saw them looking in the backfield the whole time. We saw some plays where we could fake a screen and fake a block and get open,” Stewart said. “You don’t get that wide open very often, so I took advantage of the chances.”
The passes came from senior quarterback Marqueon Minor, who collected first-quarter touchdowns on the Vikings’ first four drives to give his team a comfortable 26-0 lead. He rushed for a pair of touchdowns and hit Stewart for another 50-yard score.
But the Crusaders (3-2, 1-2) had several chances to put points on the board.
The best one came when they were down three scores midway through the first quarter and senior receiver Brennan Williams took a kickoff all the way down to the 10-yard line. Penalties marred the good field position, however, and the Crusaders couldn’t convert on fourth-and-goal from the 12-yard line.
CLA entered the red zone four times in the first half but came away with no offensive points.
“We made a whole lot of mistakes,” coach Ben Palmer said. “We drove down, we got in the red zone and just snap the ball over our quarterback’s head. First-and-goal from the 10 becomes first-and-goal from the 25. Guys running the wrong routes, quarterback throwing the wrong routes — a lot of mental errors.”
The Vikings offense stalled in the second quarter, but their defense picked up the slack.
The Crusaders seemed poised to score early in the quarter, but senior defensive back Quinshaw Kelly took an interception 90 yards the other way to make it 34-0. NHS coach David Masterson called that play “the turning point.”
On the first play of the ensuing CLA drive, the snap went over senior quarterback Prince Davis’ head and was recovered in the end zone by senior linebacker Josh Cole for another Vikings score.
CLA finally got on the board with 31 seconds to go in the first half when senior linebacker Lucas Broussard returned a blocked punt for a 5-yard touchdown. The Crusaders went into halftime down 40-6 after committing seven penalties for 65 yards.
“We fell down 26-0 to start the game off, so the game plan kind of goes out the window,” Palmer said. “Now we got to play catch-up and not establish what we wanted to do.”
The Vikings extended their lead to 46-6 in the third quarter on a 24-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Tyriq Kelly. CLA closed the scoring with a 51-yard touchdown pass from Davis to junior tight end Jason Briggs with about seven minutes remaining in the contest.
The Crusaders picked up two more first downs than the Vikings and outgained them 304-285, but Masterson was pleased with how his offense performed in the opening quarter.
“I didn’t foresee us jumping on them that early. That’s not something I projected,” he said. “The offensive coaches did a fabulous job of just getting some athletes out in space.”