Prior to high school, Dore Gilyard had little interest in knocking anything over except pins.
Though he was bigger than most of his classmates, Gilyard loved to bowl but didn’t like sports that required physical contact. In fact, it scared him.
“When I was younger, I was watching the Super Bowl and somebody got hit and they had to carry him off on a stretcher,” Gilyard said. “I didn’t want that to be me, so I didn’t want to play football. Everyone told me I should, but I didn’t want to.”
When he got to Northeast High School, he decided to face his fears and try out for the Vikings football team. He didn’t last long on the junior varsity squad because midway through his sophomore year, he became a starter on the offensive line. And while he switched positions a few times, he was a constant at the position for almost three years.
“The first time I hit somebody, I was like, ‘This is fun,’ ” said Gilyard, a 6-foot-1, 240-pounder who starts at left tackle this year. “I had a lot of fun playing there. We’ve had good lines, and my teammates have been great.
“There are times I’m around all the talent and I see how great they are, and it makes me feel inferior. I just go out and try to do my best.”
Gilyard isn’t inferior. In fact, he’s one of the reasons the Vikings have had so much success over the past three seasons. In fact, each year Gilyard has started, Northeast has won the 6A Public League championship and advanced to the District 12 (think city) championship game.
Unfortunately for the Vikings, all three years they ran into Catholic League champ St. Joe’s Prep and on Saturday night, for the third year in a row, the Hawks advanced in the state playoffs.
Prep bested host Northeast 49-14 in a game that was much closer than the final score indicated.
Northeast was able to move the ball against the Catholic League Red Division champ. Charles Britt led the way, throwing for a 70-yard touchdown to Elijah Jeudy and rushing for a 5-yard score.
The Vikings also drove to the five-yard line on their first possession after Prep took a 7-0 lead, but failed to score. The Hawks took over, drove the length of the field, but threw an interception. The play was wiped out by a holding call, so Prep continued its drive and took a 14-0 advantage. Northeast never gave up, but was unable to recover.
The Vikings will play again on Thanks-giving when they host Central. It will be the third meeting between the two teams. Northeast dominated the first two.
The Hawks are one of the best teams in the nation, so Gilyard was proud of the way his teammates stuck together.
“They’re very good,” Gilyard said. “I just wanted us to try our best and I think we did. They’re good. They’re always good. It’s good to see how you can match up with them because you want to be the best, too.”
Gilyard fought hard against Prep all night despite playing with a massive club on his right hand. He suffered a thumb injury earlier in the season, and the only way he could play was to have it taped up. It didn’t hinder him at all. In fact, it may have helped him.
“I had the same injury on (my left) hand two years ago,” GIlyard said. “I went to block someone, and it was bent back. Same thing. I played through it last time, so I knew I could play.
“It’s hard because you can’t block someone, but you can’t hold them, either. I only got called for one penalty since I had it happen, and it was because I tackled the guy. You can’t tackle someone when you’re wearing it.”
Gilyard has one more game left, but his athletic career at Northeast is far from over.
Once his season ends, he’ll take a few days and then go back to bowling, where he’s one of the top bowlers in the Public League, topping out with a 190 game. He also does a spring sport. He’s a member of the Northeast track and field team, where he throws the discus.
And while he is talented at all three sports, his goal is to play football in college. He also has a lot of options on what to study. He’s interested in psychology. He also loves photography and video game design. He takes various classes at Northeast that have helped prepare him for the future.
“I love design, all kinds of design, I think I would love to do that, maybe design video games,” said Gilyard, who lives near the school. “I think I could change (majors) a lot. I’m interested in a lot of things.”
It’s safe to say Gilyard gets his passion from his mom, a Philadelphia police officer who is always one of Northeast’s biggest supporters. No matter what the score, she’s cheering on her team, and her favorite Viking loves having her there.
“It’s me and her, we’re a team,” Gilyard said. “She’s always here at every game. She is always there for me and I’m always there for her. She’s at every game. She loves football.”
Though next year, she’ll have to travel to college to watch him play.
“She’ll be there,” said Gilyard, an honor student in the classroom. “I definitely want to play in college. I’m starting to look now. But school is the important thing.”