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NORTH EAST — Chris Schleich’s halftime speech started before his North East football team completely left the field during Thursday’s Senior Night game.

He clearly got his message across as the Indians scored 22 third-quarter points and rolled to a 36-8 win over visiting North Harford in Susquehanna Division action. The Indians maintained their share of first place with a 4-1 division record and a 4-3 mark overall.

“We broke the huddle crisp and with a sense of urgency, we lined up and got a physical edge,” Schleich explained. “We didn’t do that in the first half and when you’re a running team, sometimes you gotta man up, dig your boots in and fire off the football.”

Benefitting from the renewed focus up front was senior running back Jachai Graham, who carried 20 times for 150 yards and scored three rushing touchdowns on the evening.

“Right now, I think I have the best blockers in the state,” Graham said. “As a team, we’re over 1,000 yards rushing, not just me.”

Graham’s first two touchdowns sparked the Indians to a 14-8 halftime lead, but after Schleich’s halftime speech, North East turned the heat up, especially on the defensive end, where Jace Evans, Shaun Murray and Kris Kozminski terrorized North Harford’s quarterbacks with eight sacks between them.

“We’re just hungry,” Evans said. “That’s all we practice is pressure on the quarterback. We pinch down we pinch away. We’re a really strong defensive front.

“Look at him,” Graham said of the 6-foot-3, 265-pound Evans. “He’s a big guy, nobody’s going to stop or block him.”

Schleich applauded the effort of his defensive line.

“We teach the kids that sometimes it’s not about the sack, it’s about rattling what the other team wants to do,” Schleich said. “The things our front four was able to do tonight kept them struggling. They did a great job.”

Graham scored his third touchdown early in the second half, then gave way to James Funk, who scored on a 17-yard run of his own. The final blow came on a double reverse that saw Ryan Kosinski float a 19-yard rainbow to quarterback Brandon Maenner to make the score 36-8 after three quarters.

With Senior Night and North Harford in the rear view, the Indians will focus on their final two weeks of the season against teams they share the Susquehanna Division lead with – Patterson Mill and county rival Rising Sun.

“We have a good recipe going and we’re getting better every day,” Schleich says. “If the guys can commit to these last two weeks like they did in the second half, we’re going to be dangerous going down the stretch.”

“We want to be the first North East team to win a regional,” Evans added. “That’s all we want this year.”

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