John Doherty knows a little about turning programs around. He spent 13 seasons as head football coach at Paul VI, but the Eagles were 0-10 the year before his arrival and posted the same record after his first season.

After that, he built the Eagles into a team that consistently contended for division titles and Top 10 placement.

He took over an Eastern program in a situation that wasn't as dire, but the Vikings, once among the elite programs in South Jersey, had clearly slipped.

Eastern was 6-24 the three years prior to Doherty's arrival last year and went 5-5 and earned a South Jersey Group 5 playoff spot in his first season.

The Vikings lost their last four games last season, including a 57-9 playoff loss to Rancocas Valley. But it was still an improvement.

"We got a little sniff of it last year, and after our RV game that was our plan, to take the next step this year," Doherty said.

Now the Vikings, who were a South Jersey Group 5 finalist as recently as 2013, seem to have that capability for reaching another level.

The schedule isn't as unforgiving as when the Vikings were in the old Olympic Conference and now the West Jersey Football League American Division, but the it still has challenges, including the opener with highly regarded Holy Spirit, which beat the Vikings, 30-22.

The Vikings (2-1) put up more than half a hundred for the second week in a row during Friday's 60-28 win over Washington Township.

Washington Township’s Bill Hohman looks to turn the corner against Eastern.
Marc Narducci
Washington Township’s Bill Hohman looks to turn the corner against Eastern.

A 22-point third quarter turned a seven-point halftime lead into a comfortable margin against the 1-2 Minutemen, who despite the record, appear improved over last year's 2-8 squad.

Eastern, meanwhile has benefited from the arrival of new offensive coordinator Nick Strom, who was relieved from his duties in May as head coach at Camden Catholic under controversial circumstances.

Several Camden Catholic players have joined him at Eastern, including receiver Dante Kiett, a Monmouth recruit who caught two touchdown passes in Friday's win.

Strom, who was 34-6 in his four seasons at Camden Catholic, is a master offensive strategist, who runs a high powered fast-paced attack

"Coach Strom's offense is high mileage, and he uses a lot of weapons and spreads the field," Kiett said.

The offense has the right player at the controls in senior quarterback Andrew Heck, who threw five touchdown passes on Friday. Before that, he said the most he had thrown was four in a junior varsity game.

"We have weapons and players who can execute big time-plays and possessions to get the job done," Heck said.

The Vikings have more than just high-level skill position players. Senior two-way lineman Jermaine Donaldson is a Temple recruit, and his possible future coach Geoff Collins was on the sideline watching him play on Friday.

The combination of skill position players and talented linemen, coupled with an innovative offense, may not make Eastern the best team in South Jersey, but observers would be hard-pressed to see one more entertaining while also displaying the ability to reach that coveted next level.

Eastern                               14    14    22    10   —   60

Washington Township       14    7        0      7   –   28

E: Dante Kiett 27 pass from Andrew Heck (John Fulleylove kick)

W: Andrew Nocille 5 run (Anthony Rossi kick)

E: Chase Stafford 27 pass from Heck (Fulleylove kick)

W: Tyree Patton 2 run (Rossi kick)

E: TJ Franden 7 run (Fulleylove kick)

W: Nocille 9 run (Rossi kick)

E: Kiett 37 pass from Heck (Fulleylove kick)

E: Mike Suarez 5 run (Fulleylove kick)

E: Jalen Egan 45 pass from Heck (Kiett pass from Heck)

E: Suarez 16 run (Fulleylove kick)

W: Patton 1 run (Rossi kick)

E: Jordan Diaz 3 pass from Heck (Fulleylove kick)

E: Fullylove 22 FG