Zekieyh Evans has done just about everything a high school football player can do.
A second-year starter on the Northeast High School football team’s defense, Evans typically lines up at safety, but also mixes in at corner.
And last year, just as he did this year, he helped the Vikings win the Public League 6A championship, the school’s sixth in the past seven years. The only year they didn’t win it was in 2020, when the Public League didn’t have a 6A championship because of the pandemic.
Evans and his mates bested Abraham Lincoln, 19-13, on Saturday. Evans made nine stops in the game, and it sets him up for a first-time showdown next weekend.
“Winning the championship means everything to me, it feels really good to be the best team in our league,” said Evans, who transferred into Northeast prior to his junior season after going to Belmont during his first two years. “I couldn’t play in the (District 12 6A championship) last year because I transferred, I could only play games in the Public League. So I’m really excited about next week.”
On Saturday, the Vikings will represent the Public League in the 6A championship game. Their opponent will once again be St. Joe’s Prep, which knocked off La Salle in the 6A Catholic League championship game.
This matchup should look familiar. It will be the sixth time these two teams have met in the unofficial city championship game. The Hawks have won the previous five, so Evans and his teammates will be ready. The winner will represent District 12 in the state playoffs.
“Everyone is excited, but I’m really happy because I couldn’t play in this game last year,” said Evans, who lives in West Philadelphia. “I know they’re a very good team. I think it will be fun. I’m going to embrace this game. It’s a chance to show people what I can do. And it’s a chance to show everyone what this team can do.”
The Vikings have been doing that all season.
After playing a very tough nonleague schedule, one that included wins over Winslow Township and Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, and a tough loss to Archbishop Wood, the Vikings played a tough Public League schedule. They knocked off everyone but Imhotep Charter, considered by some as one of the best teams in the state.
But their toughest test might have come at the hands of the Railsplitters, who led 13-0 early in the game. Northeast scored the final 19 points of the first half, and thanks to both teams flexing their defensive muscles, neither team was able to score after halftime.
“They’re a good team, they surprised us a little bit, they’re a very good team,” Evans said. “They jumped out early, but we knew what we had to do. Our defense played very well in the second half.
“I thought I played pretty well. I didn’t make a lot of mistakes, didn’t really make any. I had some tackles. I play nickel cornerback, too, and they didn’t really throw my way too much. But I thought we all played pretty well. We beat a good team.”
Evans has been making plays all season. And his goal is to continue to make plays.
His highlights include an interception returned for a touchdown in Northeast’s playoff win over Central, a team it will see again on Thanksgiving.
His goal is to continue to make strides as a player, that will not only help him in his future, but will pay off for the Vikings.
“This defense is great, especially coverage wise and on the run, we’re great against the run,” Evans said. “I like defending the pass more because that’s my real technique and talent come in. The biggest thing is to surprise people that I can tackle and be aggressive on the run. I think I’m better known for being a pass defender, but I like to hit.
“I try to be very aggressive, especially against the run. I think that helps the defense and it makes us a better team. My role is to make plays, cover, make tackles and do whatever it takes for the defense to win each possession for our team.”
He’s also playing for himself.
Evans hopes to continue his football career next year, though he’s unsure where he’ll go. He has picked a major.
“I just want to play,” Evans said. “I am definitely looking at studying engineering. I love science. I do pretty well in school, but science is my favorite subject. I want to do something involving science.”
He also wants to continue making plays, just like he has for the Vikings all season.
The stakes continue to get higher, with this week’s matchup with the Hawks the biggest one thus far.
“We have a really good team, we’ve played in big games all year,” Evans said. “We just had a big one, now we have another big game. We’ll be ready.”