VIKINGS READY FOR MORE CHALENGES
For Northside, returning to compete in the 4th Annual Allstate Sugar Bowl National Prep Classic, sponsored by SportsNOLA.com, January 2-4 at the Alario Center in Westwego for a second straight year will be beneficial to the Vikings.
Northside captured the championship of the Madison Prep tournament. The Vikings got off to a 9-5 start against a very challenging schedule, including the likes of powerful St. Augustine, Washington-Marion and Landry-Walker.
Coming off of a 4A state championship game appearance last season, the Vikings are once again formidable in 2013-2014. That is nothing new. Northside won the 4A state title in 2006 and reached the semifinals in 2004, 2007 and 2011 while making it to the quarterfinals in 2005 and 2008.
Northside upset defending champion Peabody Magnet in the semifinals before falling 51-43 to St. Thomas More in the final last season.
Vikings coach Devan Clark was very pleased with the way his team surged late last season.
"It was a big accomplishment for a team that no one expected would make any noise in 4A," Clark said. "When we played in the Sugar Bowl Tournament, we played three different style teams in three days, including Sheldon out of California (65-53 loss). They were very good. It was a high caliber team. We played pretty well against those guys."
The Vikings have been working to overcome the loss of star Kendall Demouchet and point guard Shannon Jones from last year's squad. Senior center Gerard Andrus (6'5) is back and is the team's top player. Junior Deante August (5'10) is another player to watch.
"Andrus is leading us in every aspect this season," Clark said. "He is the only guy that was part of everything last year, starting every game. This year is a totally new group of players in what we are requiring them to do. It will take time but we will continue to improve."
Paul McZeal transferred in last year and became an impact player. McZeal missed nine games with a knee injury to start the 2013-2014 season but is back now and playing well.
"I think the challenging schedule we have played will help us quite a bit," Clark said. "Tioga was very good, also. We wanted to find out where we stood early so we could make adjustments and be a better team by playoff time."
Clark feels the trip to New Orleans will be enjoyable and beneficial to his program.
"The experience last year at the Sugar Bowl Tournament was very positive," Clark said. "It was the turning point to our season and I expect that to be the case again this year as it will be our last games going into district play. We feel that 4A is always loaded and this year is no exception. We look forward to the challenge of being a legitimate contender again."
Based on last season's performance during and after the Allstate Sugar Bowl National Prep Classic, look for Northside to be a worthy contender for honors in New Orleans and on a statewide basis in 4A.