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At 3-0, NEL Trojans are enjoying 2001 odyssey

By By Marty Stamper
Sept. 20, 2001
Remember the movie "2001, a Space Odyssey?"
Northeast Lauderdale is having its own little odyssey this fall on the gridiron and the Trojans haven't had to leave earth to experience it.
Northeast is off to a 3-0 start in the fall of 2001 and that's something the Trojan faithful haven't seen in quite a while.
The last winning season for Northeast came in 1990 when the Trojans went 8-3.
Joel Speed's 1990 team opened with a 24-0 win over West Lauderdale before falling 25-8 at West Jones the next week. Then the Trojans caught fire as they reeled off wins over Kemper County (27-6), South Leake (36-6), Newton (13-0), and Quitman (32-6) before Laurel took a 12-0 win at Northeast.
The Trojans then knocked off Northeast Jones (7-6) before slipping past Noxapater (15-13). A 7-0 win over Southeast Lauderdale closed out the regular season with an 8-2 mark.
The 1990 Trojans then went to the Taylorsville Lions Bowl, where they lost 20-7 to the Trojans from West Marion.
Then came a long drought that saw a trio of 4-7 years be the high-water mark. From 1995-99, Northeast's teams had a combined record of 5-48. The five victims were West Lauderdale (1995, 1996, and 1999), Enterprise (1998), and Kemper County (1999). Not exactly the kind of wins a 4A school needs to brag about.
Only Clarkdale, which went 3-49 from 1995-99, fared worse in these parts during that time frame.
The Trojans came close to turning things around in 2000. Last year's Northeast squad actually got off to a 4-1 start after losing its season opener to Newton. However, a six-game slide to end the year left the 2000 Trojans with a 4-7 mark. Two of the losses were to Newton (26-21) and West Lauderdale (19-14). A play here or there could have meant a 6-5 year.
Northeast first-year head coach Andy Stevens knows business is about to pick up for his current team. Following wins over Heidelberg, Southeast Lauderdale, and West Lauderdale, the Trojans take on traditional power Magee on the road Friday night.
If anybody in Lauderdale County knows about Magee, it should Stevens as he came to Northeast following a stint at Simpson County rival Mendenhall.
Then again, former Trojans probably remember that four-year stretch from 1991-95 when Magee gave them 56-7, 57-0, 33-8, and 45-30 beatings.
Then come games with West Jones, Florence, Northeast Jones, Mendenhall, Louisville, and Quitman. No cream puffs there.
With four teams making the playoffs from each region this year, could the Trojans be making their first appearance since the 1985 team won the Class 5-3A North Sub-District title before losing 39-13 to Bay Springs for the district championship? We'll have to see. But one thing is for sure; the current Trojan squad already has any many wins as the 85 team which went 3-7-1, but managed to win at the right time.
For the 2001 team to get the program back on the map, a good time to start would be Friday.
Marty Stamper is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at mstamper@themeridianstar.com or call him at 693-1551 ext. 3234.

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