The rain and wind did no favors for Penn Wood’s offense on Friday night.
But it was Northeast’s defense that brought the thunder.
With five sacks and four takeaways, Northeast extended its scoreless streak to 11 quarters in a 32-0 victory over Penn Wood in a non-league battle of unbeatens on a wet night at Charles Martin Memorial Stadium.
“I think we have the best defense in the country,” said junior defensive end Elijah Jeudy, who sparked a fierce pass rush with three sacks.
Jon-Luke Peaker and William Lawrence scored rushing touchdowns, and Shuayb “Shoes” Brinkley caught a touchdown pass from Zahir Wheeler for Northeast (3-0), the No. 5 team in the Inquirer Southeastern Pennsylvania Top 10.
But for the second week in a row, the defense led the way for the Vikings.
In a 36-0 victory over Haverford on Aug. 31, Northeast’s defense forced nine turnovers and scored three touchdowns.
The Northeast defenders generated nine points on Friday night, forcing a safety with a strong rush on a punt and adding another touchdown on Zaire McLaurin’s 56-yard fumble return.
“We’re all dogs,” said Northeast senior safety Tyrece Mills, the Vikings’ captain who helped set the tone with an interception on Penn Wood’s third play from scrimmage. “Everybody has a lot of confidence. Everybody is trying to make a play.”
Northeast coach Phil Gormley credits assistant Deion Barnes, the former Northeast and Penn State star who serves as the team’s defensive coordinator, for the Vikings’ dominance on that side of the football.
“It’s all Deion,” Gormley said. “He opened the weight room Jan. 7, and he’s had those guys going since then. He’s done a great job.”
Northeast allowed 13 points to Abington in the first quarter of the Aug. 23 season opener. The Vikings roared back for a 36-13 win and have outscored their next two opponents by a combined 68-0.
“We still have a lot to work on,” said Jeudy, who has 26 college scholarship offers. “This wasn’t our best game. We missed too many sacks.
“We’ve got things to work on, but we’ll fix it.”
The Vikings easily could have registered 10 sacks if not for the work of Penn Wood (2-1) senior quarterback Desman Johnson, a Class 5A all-state selection last season after setting a Delaware County passing record with 2,896 yards along with 33 touchdowns.
The 6-foot-2, 250-pound Johnson fought off numerous tacklers, using his strength, agility and a potent straight-arm to keep play after play alive.
“He’s Dante Culpepper-ish,” Gormley said, referring to the former NFL quarterback. “He must have gotten hit 50-60 times. He’s a really, really good football player.”
Jeudy said tackling Johnson was tough duty.
“He was heavy,” Jeudy said. “I tried to take him down. That’s not a one-man job.”
Peaker spun into the end zone to cap a short drive after Mills’ interception for a 7-0 lead. Lawrence made it 14-0 with another short touchdown run to end another short drive set up by another interception, this one by Tyreek Chappell.
But the highlight for Northeast’s defenders was McLaurin’s fumble return for touchdown, set up sophomore defensive end Kenny Talley’s sack.
“Defenses wins championships,” Mills said. “We keep playing like this, I don’t see nobody that can beat us.
“Turnovers, scoring off turnovers, I just don’t see anybody that can beat us.”
Penn Wood 0 0 0 0 – 0
Northeast 14 9 9 0 – 32
N: Jon-Luke Peaker 3 run (Massi Mohli kick)
N: William Lawrence 3 run (Mohli kick)
N: Shuayb Brinkley 15 pass from Zahir Wheeler (Mohli kick)
N: Mohli 31 FG