“Bridesmaid” makes it to the altar

Published 9:22 am Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Always the bridesmaid….never the bride.

On four previous occasions, Northeast Academy’s football team has stood at the door leading to the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association’s state championship game. That door was rudely slammed in their face on each attempt to gain the finals.

The last of those unsuccessful bids came during the 2010 season. In a thrilling state semi-final game at Cary Christian Academy, the Eagles played their hearts out. Lead by the dynamic duo of Davis Harrell and James Pope, Northeast built a 50-35 lead in the third quarter, but Cary rallied down the stretch, to include a touchdown pass with 17 seconds left, to deal the Eagles a heartbreaking 57-56 loss.

And who’ll ever forget a thrilling semi-final clash in Raleigh during the 2006 season. There, playing against state powerhouse Word of God Christian Academy, the Eagles took the Holy Rams to the brink, only to lose, 60-54, on a trick play with six seconds left in the game.

Yep….Northeast has climbed the mountain, but failed to reach the top. They’ve also wallowed in misery. In their 2012 season finale, on their home field, Northeast suffered an embarrassing 68-0 loss to Word of God, thus finishing that particular campaign without tasting a win (an 0-9 record that year).

Three short years later, the Eagles are once again knocking at the NCISAA door. After dismantling Community Christian Academy 58-22 this past Friday night (in a semi-final game where they fell behind 16-0 before reeling off 58 unanswered points), Northeast is ready to step foot into previously unchartered waters….a state title game.

Standing in their way is a team they know all too well – Southampton Academy, a school located just north of the state line in Courtland, VA. The Raiders are coached by the legendary Dale Marks, a man that has led Southampton to multiple NCISAA state championships over the years.

Do the perennial “bridesmaid” Eagles have what it takes to turn the private school football ranks on its ear and upset the heavyweight Raiders?

If the first game of the 2015 season can be used as a measuring stick, then, yes, Northeast is very capable of winning the school’s first-ever state football championship. And for those of you who don’t know, Northeast Academy has been playing football for 45 years.

In that first meeting vs. Southampton on Aug. 22, the Raiders snapped a 44-44 stalemate by scoring on a 39-yard TD pass with 75 seconds left in the game to defeat the Eagles, 50-44. Northeast had tied the game with 3:07 left thanks to a 55-yard scamper by quarterback Matt Little. The senior signal-caller had a big game that night, rushing for 189 yards and passing for 101. He had a hand in four touchdowns.

However, the Eagles aren’t a one-man show. They have good size and great senior leadership from the likes of Cody Wells, Nathan Rowe, Christian Bland and Bruce Sonnerberg, along with a solid class of juniors – Josh Byrd, Cole Rose, Austin Bradley, Peyton Galloway and Chandler Howell.

Coach Stevie Flythe and his “bridesmaid” Eagles have finally reached the altar. Does a championship ring await? We’ll find out by mid-afternoon on Saturday (11-14) as Northeast and Southampton clash at 1 p.m. at Parrott Academy in Kinston.

If you can make that trip…do so! After such a long wait to finally have this opportunity, the Eagles deserve the support of all true fans of football.


Cal Bryant is Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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