In only its second year following an undefeated state championship season, Norland’s football team hit a low point in 2013.
The Vikings hobbled to a 3-7 season uncharacteristic of what their program had accomplished over the previous decade.
But on Saturday at James R. Hallford Stadium, Norland took a big step toward restoring its winning ways.
Led by a suffocating defense that recorded four interceptions, including two by senior Carlton Davis, Norland shut out MLK (Ga.) 30-0 at the Battle of the Borders Classic — an event that pits four Florida teams (including three from Miami-Dade County) against Georgia teams.
Norland played in last season’s event, but lost to Stephenson (Ga.).
“A lot of these guys were young and on the teams that lost last season,” Norland coach Daryle Heidelburg said. “It’s the maturation process. Those losses really hurt and these boys don’t want to start that way again.”
The Vikings (1-0) hired former Northwestern and Central defensive coordinator Luther Campbell for the same role last year in the hopes of bolstering their defense.
On Saturday, Norland played an aggressive style that led to multiple sacks, a safety and a fumble recovery. The Vikings never allowed MLK to sustain any momentum throughout the game.
Junior linebacker Kion Holder set the tone early with an interception he returned 22 yards for a touchdown with 4:50 left in the first.
“I’m impressed with our defense,” Heidelburg said. “We brought coach Luke in for exactly this kind of defense. I can’t take credit for that. He had those guys playing aggressive and dictating the tempo of the game.”