By Phil Anastasia
There are echoes of Atlantic City's state championship basketball team in the Vikings' football team.
Quarterback Jarren McBryde spreads the ball around on the football field the way point guard Martel Johnson did on the basketball court.
And three of his favorite targets were key players for last winter's Group 4 state champions -- Ga-Brial Chandler, Isaiah Graves and Dayshawn Reynolds, who might be the best wide receiver in South Jersey.
But the Vikings don't play football in short pants.
There's a physical presence to this team, from its speedy, hard-hitting defense to the bruising inside running of halfback Dom Brown-Hurd.
"We have tough kids," AC coach Thomas Kelly said after his team Absegami 33-25 in a game loaded with SJ 5 playoff implications on Friday night.
Kelly wasn't talking about his team's size and strength -- Brown-Hurd is 200-pound back who scored two TDs in the fourth quarter on Friday -- its sturdy offensive line or gang-tackling on defense.
He was talking about the team's ability to handle the issues related to Hurricane Sandy and come out in its first game since the storm and outplay a quality opponent on an elevated stage.
Toughness is a quality of the mind. AC's basketball team had it, winning all those tight games in the tournament. This FB team showed some of the same stuff on Friday night.
"We talk about resiliency all the time," Kelly said.
AC (6-2) likely wrapped up the No. 4 seed in the SJ 5 tournament. In a twist, the Vikings could see Absegami again next Friday, as the Braves project as the possible No. 5 seed.
AC will be a tough out in the tournament. McBryde is a playmaker, with 1,441 passing yards. Reynolds is a gifted receiver, capable of leaping grabs -- like his 44-yard TD in the third quarter -- and a dangerous runner after the catch.
"He's a next-level player," Kelly said of Reynolds.
Absegami is dangerous, too. The Braves have big-time playmakers at RB in junior David Hood and senior Tyler Bing, both of whom are terrific receivers out of the backfield.
One thing that would help Absegami would be a return to form by senior QB/DB Rashad Kinlaw, a Notre Dame recriuit. Kinlaw still is working his way back from a broken leg.
But AC is a team to watch. If the Vikings get past Absegami, they likely would visit No. 1 Williamstown in a clasic clash of styles -- the Braves' Wing-T offense featuring a powerful ground game and the AC's explosive passing attack.
But that's down the road, a potential December matchup. These Vikings aren't ready to compare themselves to the Vikings that won all those basketball games in March -- but there are echoes.