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NORTHEAST // Vikings back in a hunt, and happy to be there

(ran CTI LTCTNT)

You can tell that Northeast coach Jerry Austin is excited to be back in the hunt for the city football championship.

There's not much he is revealing about his Vikings, but he has opponents worried.

Northeast returns to the Class 5A, District 10 race after spending several years chasing the likes of some of the best teams in the country, including Sarasota Riverview and Bradenton Manatee in the Class 6A District. For relief, the Vikings even went independent last year, recording a solid 10-1 mark, including a bowl victory.

"It's certainly nice to be back and have a natural city rivalry," said Austin, who is the dean of Pinellas County public high school coaches and has posted 106 wins in 16 seasons. Austin returns a load of talent which already has Northeast the dominant favorite in a district that includes two-time district champion Dixie Hollins, Gibbs, St. Petersburg, Lakewood and Boca Ciega.

Despite Austin downplaying his abundance of talent, many coaches around the county agree that the Vikings have some of the best Austin ever has assembled.

And many should know. Five current head coaches have been assistants under Austin.

"You gotta get past Northeast before you look anywhere else," St. Petersburg coach Dusty Boylson said. "Everyone understands that, including Jerry. I love having them back (on the schedule)."

On the Ground: Northeast lost starters Germico Styles and Tias Climes to graduation but return plenty of speed and depth, including Nathan Brinkley (5-9, 170); Paul Reeves (5-11, 150); Adrian Ross (5-7, 165) and Kevin Bishop (6-2, 180). In Austin's favored Wing-T offense, which many other coaches have adopted, grinding it downfield is essential. This core of backs will see that it gets done, especially since the offensive line is so solid. With Pete Waechter and Tony Urino leading the way, it should open up lots of room for the backs to roam.

Through the Air: With the return of junior quarterback Carl Jordan (6-3, 180), the Vikings' hope to have an effective passing attack. Jordan threw for 1,100 yards last year and has emerged as one of best in the area. "He is sweet," Austin said. "He is going to be a great one." Jordan is explosive with great speed and a wicked arm. He'll look toward dangerous speedster Kenny Watson (6-0, 170) to give the Vikings a deep threat.

Defense, Defense: This is where the Vikings will be strongest, returning eight starters. Steven Hatley, Waechter and Urino all return. Linebackers Robert Lancaster, Johnny Newsome and Dorian Speaker are fierce hitters, while the secondary will be anchored by Glenn Edwards, son of the former Pittsburgh Steeler great of the same name.

Just for Kicks: Austin isn't set on his kickers, but he has two he feels can do the job, which may be mostly to kick extra points.

AT A GLANCE

Coach: Jerry Austin, 17th season (101-63).

Assistants: Jim Cornillaud, Todd Webber, Jerry Iserman, Robert Celeste.

Nickname: Vikings.

Stadium: John Sexton Stadium.

District: Class 5A, District 10.

1994 record: 10-1. Wins: Countryside 38-8, Dixie Hollins 13-10, Dunedin 28-7, East Lake 20-0, Pinellas Park 41-8, Sarasota 35-21, Largo 16-0, Seminole 41-38, Boca Ciega 41-14. East-West Bowl _ West Palm Beach Wellington 18-7. Loss: Gibbs 22-21.

Playoff history: None.

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