PINELLAS PARK — No one can question the heart of D’Angelo Hutchinson.
Throughout Friday’s tense battle with host Pinellas Park, the Northeast athlete gave his all. And with the ball in his hands late in the game, with a shot at victory, the senior came through.
Lining up at wide receiver on fourth down from the Patriots’ 26-yard line, Hutchinson took in an in-stride pass from classmate Aidan Gardner down the right sideline. Despite getting rocked by Patriots defender Jordan Jimenez, Hutchinson spun across the goal line with 22.5 seconds left in the game to give Northeast (5-0, 2-0 Class 6A-11) its first lead and an emotional 13-12 victory.
“We really don’t run that play too often because we’re never down,” said Hutchinson, who played quarterback for most of the game. “Coach (Shawn Davis) trusted me to make a play so I had to do what I had to do.”
“He asked if I’d throw him the ball, and when you’ve got an athlete like that …,” Davis said. “Aidan’s been throwing the ball well the past couple of games, we lined up D’Angelo away from (Pinellas Park’s) best cornerback and we threw it up to him.”
After surviving an end zone interception by Pinellas Park (4-1, 1-1) that was wiped out by a pass interference penalty, then two holding penalties of its own, Northeast made the play that extinguished a seven-game, 11-year losing streak.
“Hutch is one of the better players in the area so we knew we were going to have our hands full,” Pinellas Park coach Kenny Crawford said.
After a physical first half that ended scoreless, the hosts looked to be finding themselves behind wide receiver/kick returner Eric Jackson (102 return yards) and halfback Juice Williams (11 carries for 98 yards). The Pats opened the second half with a Kentrez Davis 1-yard scoring run, then looked to have stopped Northeast on its first two possessions.
But on the second, at the Pinellas Park 35, a fake punt snap went to Hutchinson. His jump pass found Jaylan Anderson open and the senior did the rest, spinning from one tackler before sprinting to the house to tie the score at 6.
“I didn’t call it,” Davis said. “We work on it every day in practice and I told them if we’re within the 40 and it’s there, you can run it. It doesn’t always happen like that (getting a TD) but this time it did. God bless ‘em.”
The Pats struck back just 1 ½ minutes later as a 70-yard return by Jackson set up a 10-yard Jake Germak to Alex Ashekun touchdown toss on the final play of the third quarter.
“This was a fantastic football game,” Crawford said. “It was unfortunate that somebody had to lose.”
And on the Vikings’ evolution from losing four of its final five games last season to taking five straight this year, rookie coach Davis said: “The kids have been buying in, believing in each other, pulling together … it’s been great.”