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Northeastern's ground game paves way to 3-0 start

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While Northeastern is pretty much where it expected to be at this juncture of the 2016 high school football season — unbeaten in its non-league games — the Bobcats staff has been sending a message to the team entering Division I play this weekend.

“Stay focused and to not get ahead of ourselves. Don’t think the three wins mean anything right now,” said senior Blake Einsig. “Right now we are doing well, but once you get into division play those wins don’t mean anything.

“Basically, our mindset going into league play is we are 0-0. It’s good coming in 3-0, now it’s really time to start putting things together.”

It’s hard to imagine things coming together any better than they have through the first few weeks of the season, particularly in terms of the team's ability to run the football. Led by 482 yards and six touchdowns from Anu Johnson, the Bobcats have already topped 1,000 yards rushing as a team.

Bolstered by his 80-yard scamper at Solanco, quarterback Shannon Valenti has 173 yards and five rushing touchdowns, while running back Chris Whack has 111 yards rushing on the season — in just eight carries. As a team, Northeastern averages 10.8 yards per run.

"Since I have been here we have been very fortunate to have some good skill positions,” said Bobcats' coach Jon Scepanski. “Those kids are athletes and I am glad they are on our team. They allow us to do so much and get into different looks.”

Three wins by a combined score of 156-20 are certainly a nice way to head into league play. Scepanski is pleased, yet knows there is still work to be done.

“That’s always our first goal, we’ve got to go into division play undefeated. We’ve got to have the confidence,” he said. “We did our job, now we have to go into division play. Division I, there is no week that is an easy week.”

Considering the starters that returned at the skill positions, many figured Northeastern would move the ball. But blocking for this group would be crucial and Blaine Yinger, Chase Kann, Elijah Alexander, Rehn Williams and John Wadkins have exceeded expectations along the offensive front.

“That was the spot I was stressing out the most about coming into the season,” said Scepanski. “The way those guys have come together. We go down a guy, the next guy in is ready to complete that five.”

Defensively, the team has seven sacks and has yielded just 20 points through the first three games under new coordinator Brian Freed.

“The kids have bought into his system. Coach Freed is doing a great job along with the kids," Scepanski said. “It has been working because of the kids. Their hard work, their effort in the offseason and now. It’s all on them.”

The Bobcats will host rival Central York this week. The Panthers, in transition under new head coach Josh Oswalt, are also off to a good start at 2-1, with the lone loss coming at power Cumberland Valley.

“Coach Oswalt has done a great job over there,” Scepanski said. “You can see it on film. The kids are playing hard over there. He’s got his offensive system that the kids are running quick and know what to do.”