Is it possible for a 3-7 team who missed the postseason to feel great after the final game of the year?
In the case of the Northeast Eagles, it is.
Northeast defeated the Antioch Bears 56-6 to finish off the regular season. After losing their first five games of the year, they finished 3-2, with the two losses coming to postseason qualifiers Henry County and Clarksville.
“The second half of the season, the older guys really bought into it, and I think that helped the younger guys buy in as well,” said Northeast coach Brandon Clark. “They were able to see what we’re capable of doing.”
Another main reason the Eagles have made a late push comes from their passing game. Freshman quarterback Jaiden Puig stepped into the role midway through the season and lit up opposing defenses. He did so again Friday, completing 66 percent of his passes for 235 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
Puig was aided by strong performances from his receivers, as Deshawn Evans caught four passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns, while Tomario Vereen caught five for 103 yards and a score. Additionally, Kendric Foster and Paulson West each returned fumbles for defensive touchdowns.
The Bears’ only score came off a kickoff return for a touchdown.
“It’s definitely a good feeling,” Clark said. “After the game, I told them in my experience as a head coach, I never had a team who improved this much from the beginning to the end. I’m really happy. It’s just night and day from the first game of the season to the last game of the season. I’ve never had a team that could really improve that much.”
With the end of the season comes the end of the high school football careers for seniors Vereen, Javian Browder, Deshawn Dempsey-Evans, Malik Rumble, Jalen Miller, Dasani Tyson, Deandre Washington, Savion Perry, Kendric Foster, Nathan Reed, Ashton McDuffie, Austin Huff, Nathan Seymore, Trey Owen, Curtis Alexander, Matthew Decker, Hanamaikai Higgins, Mason Hill, Malachi Byrd, Anthony Shin and Marcus Jackson.
“We’re returning a lot, I think on defense we return nine starters, offense I think six,” Clark said. “They finally got some confidence going. I wish we would have gotten it earlier, but it is what it is.”