- Faith & Family
Norland has had an entire year to contemplate their loss in the Class 5A state championship game last year. This time they were hellbent on making sure that didn’t happen again. And when the dust settled in Orlando’s Citrus Bowl, it was the Norland Vikings who strutted away with the bragging rights — a perfect 15-0 record, a national ranking of No. 8 by ESPN and a second state championship. Most of the nearly 4,000 fans that attended the game were Norland supporters, waving street signs and wearing T-shirts that had the word “redemption” printed on the front.
As was the case throughout this season, Norland was led by its senior running back Duke Johnson and a defense that refused to give any leeway to their opponents, Crawfordville Wakulla.
Johnson put on a real show in his last high school game, but he won’t be going far away next fall. He will suit up for the Hurricanes at the University of Miami. The finalist for the Mr. Florida award rushed for 130 yards, returned a kickoff for 69 yards and a touchdown and scored for four more touchdowns as well. He ended the season with 2,087 yards and 29 rushing touchdowns — a new record for Miami-Dade County.
Team members like Feddie Davey said the key to their victory was keeping their eyes on the prize.
“We had no friction [this year] between the team; we were one unit and we were the best.”
Coach Daryle Heidelburg took over the helm three years ago and says he was intent on putting together a championship program. He has clearly done just that. Norland becomes the fifth school from the County since 1963 to win multiple state titles; the others include: Coral Gables, Carol City, Northwestern and Southridge. Central would have joined them had they won in their Class 6A final matchup last weekend.
Johnson wore special black and gold socks and gloves to honor one of his mentors — Liberty City Optimist founder Sam Johnson who died last Sunday after suffering a heart attack.
By D. Kevin McNeir