City League Roundup: Beechcroft, Northland football teams building for future

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Junior Correy Craddolph had 50 tackles this fall for the Northland football team, which went 3-4 in coach Ryan Sayers' first season.

Every season from 2014-18, the City League-North Division football title was won by either Beechcroft or Northland or shared by the two before Centennial earned the championship in 2019.

There was no City-North title this year after league teams played only a three-game regular season because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, but both the Cougars and Vikings hope this fall was a building block heading into next season.

Both teams had new coaches and had their seasons end with losses in the quarterfinal round of the City playoffs.

“We’re not satisfied, but overall we took care of the teams in the North that we regularly play in the regular season,” Beechcroft coach Humphrey Simmons said. “With the teams that are established, you could tell they had chemistry with their coaching staff. It was an up-and-down season with the (school) district stopping us for two weeks (in late August). It was a roller-coaster.”

Simmons became the Cougars’ fourth coach in as many seasons and guided the team to a 3-4 finish that included beating East (34-24 on Sept. 25) and Northland (30-8 on Oct. 1) in regular-season games before losing 50-16 to 11th-seeded Hamilton Township on Oct. 9 in a first-round Division III, Region 11 playoff game as the No. 22 seed.

Beechcroft was the sixth seed for the City playoffs and beat 11th-seeded Centennial 14-6 on Oct. 22 before falling to third-seeded Walnut Ridge 22-0 on Oct. 30.

The Cougars had a 10-member senior class that featured James Austin (OL), Kevin Damoah (OL), Devin French (LB/RB), Demetrius Haynes (DB), Danny Hernandez (WR) and Muhammad-Ali Kobo (TE/WR/LB/DL).

Junior Diante Latham (RB/LB), who led the Cougars in rushing yards and interceptions, juniors Gary Freeman (OL), Antwan Reed (TE) and J.J. Simmons (WR/DB), sophomore Shawn Henderson (RB) and freshman Joshua Ruffin (QB) should be among the top returnees.

Northland went 1-2 before opening the Division II, Region 7 playoffs with a 44-6 loss at 14th-seeded Watkins Memorial on Oct. 9 as the No. 19 seed.

The Vikings then picked up a regular-season win over Mifflin (28-18 on Oct. 15) before beating ninth-seeded East 42-14 in the first round of the City playoffs.

Northland, which was seeded eighth in the City, lost to top-seeded Eastmoor Academy 27-0 on Oct. 30 to finish 3-4. The Vikings also lost to the Warriors 49-0 on Sept. 18 in their opener.

“We ended up in a good spot and changed the culture to the way we wanted it,” coach Ryan Sayers said. “You could see the changes from Week 1 to Week 7. There were a lot of improvements and a lot of positives. People don’t realize it was 12-0 (in the playoff loss) until there were two minutes left in the third quarter.

“We did the most we could with the COVID where we had the two-week shutdown and I thought we did some very special things. We barely had any time with the kids but we made it through this year healthy, and one of the most positive things is that we had no COVID cases.”

The only senior starters were Jaylen Broadus (OL/DL), Darrien Mahan (DB) and Shemar Watson (WR/DB).

Junior Isaiah Jackson completed 24 of 65 passes for 354 yards and four touchdowns while splitting time at quarterback with Watson.

Junior Japhrone Chapman (WR/DB) was the leading receiver with 13 catches for 129 yards. Junior Rob Dorsey (WR/DB) and sophomore Isaiah Willis-Jackson (WR/DB) also are eligible to return.

Freshman David Brown (RB) led Northland in rushing with 326 yards and one touchdown on 64 carries, and junior Rayvon Ivery (RB) rushed for 196 yards and two scores.

Junior Correy Craddolph (OL/DL) finished with 50 tackles.

Other key players eligible to return include sophomore Shamari Christian (OL/DL) and freshman Kevin Belt (OL).

“We were just a young team,” Sayers said. “These guys are so young and next year is going to be our year.”

Senior Tavarres Overton, center, and the Centennial football team struggled this season, finishing 0-5.

Stars find positives

in winless season

During his eight seasons as Centennial football coach, Donte Goosby has lifted a program that won one game the year before he took over to a 7-3 finish in 2018 and a 9-2 record that included its first playoff berth last fall.

The Stars went 0-5 this season, including losing 50-0 to 10th-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley on Oct. 9 in a first-round Division III, Region 11 playoff game. Every team was eligible for the playoffs this season.

“It was a mental hurdle that I and the other coaches and players had to overcome because the season was just weird,” Goosby said. “All the way back in the spring, we had to do conditioning online. When we went to prepare in the offseason, we were suspended and then resumed again. There were a lot of hurdles we had to overcome. Looking at it in that context, we’re happy about the fact that we were able to have a season and I’m extremely proud of our guys.”

After winning the City-North last season, the Stars were matched up to begin the season against defending City-South champion Walnut Ridge and lost 36-14 on Sept. 17. They also lost regular-season games to Northland (20-6 on Sept. 26) and Whetstone (22-14 on Oct. 2).

On Oct. 22, 11th-seeded Centennial lost to sixth-seeded Beechcroft 14-6 in the first round of the City playoffs.

The senior class was led by Jacob Barnes (OL/DL), C.J. Dean (K/P), Justin Grimes (OL/DL), Noah Hatem (OL/DL), Kevin Motley (OL/DL), Tavarres Overton (WR/DB), Syquee Womack (QB) and Virgil Wyche (RB). Tyreek Gunnell played in two games at wide receiver and defensive back before suffering a season-ending injury and Ishaq Dada (OL/DL) rounded out the class.

While Wyche was the Stars’ leading rusher with 261 yards on 52 carries, junior Alvin Forte should help fill the void at running back next season.

Junior Greg Howell (TE/DL) and sophomore Azyia Taylor (OL/DL) also should be among the key returnees.

“The season didn’t go the way we wanted it to go and we weren’t the same team as last year,” Goosby said. “That said, there were a bunch of moments where guys had to push themselves and be resilient and, in that regard, the season was a success.

“We have a host of kids in our freshman class that are ready to be the heart and soul of our team.”

julrey@thisweeknews.com

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