The Central Lancers took the opening kickoff and marched 85 yards for their lone touchdown, with Siddiq Cornish scoring on a 39-yard pass from quarterback DeVonne Boler with 5 minutes, 28 seconds left in the first quarter. Cornish appeared to have caught a touchdown pass minutes earlier, but it was called back because of a holding penalty.
Northeast's first-year coach, Chris Riley, echoed his quarterback's comments about his team's slow starts.
"You only have to watch one of our games. They're all the same," Riley said.
Playing in his last game for the Vikings after a four-year career as a starter, Stokes said he was not about to let this one get away. The Vikings had taken a 40-0 pasting on Nov. 14 from Washington, a team they had beaten earlier this season, in the Public League championship game. This was their last chance to go out with a win.
"That loss to Washington hurt," Stokes said. "And this was my last game."
After Central (6-5) scored, Northeast moved to the Central 21-yard line on its first series, but the drive ran out of steam.
The Lancers went nowhere in their next series but got the ball right back when Zaim Tahiraj recovered a muffed punt at the Lancers' 35. Three plays netted minus yardage, forcing the Lancers to punt and setting the Vikings up for their first touchdown.
A wide-open Eric Brundidge capped a 66-yard drive on a 28-yard hookup with Stokes.
"I had made some mistakes - blown coverage - so I had to help us get back into the game," said Brundidge, a senior wide receiver who also plays safety.
Central had a chance to take the lead again before halftime, but Joe Guarneri's field goal try was short from 27 yards out.
Northeast put it away when Stokes ran 11 yards for a touchdown six minutes into the second half. That capped an 84-yard drive.
"I didn't have to tell them anything at halftime," Riley said. "We made some adjustments and regrouped. They're a great group of kids."
A 17-yard pass from Stokes to junior Rashaun Sligh with less than four minutes to play sealed it for the Vikings.
"Too many blown coverages," Central coach Rich Drayton said. "We gave them too many opportunities."
Contact staff writer Don Beideman at 267-815-0733 or firstname.lastname@example.org.