You never know when the North Salinas High football team is going to come to life.
It ended a seven-year playoff drought in 1997.
It went another six years before reaching post-season in 2003.
And the Vikings went another four years after that before qualifying for playoffs in 2007 and 2008.
North High had never won more than three games in any season since 2008, and things didn’t look so great this year either after a 0-2 start.
But the Vikings, who rarely seem to do things the easy way, are once again back on the playoff chase after collecting their fifth straight win, 45-10 Friday night over Watsonville at Rabobank Stadium.
Not only are the 5-2 Vikings in playoff contention, but they’re also in the hunt for a Monterey Bay League Pacific Division title at 3-0 with three games to go.
League titles have been few and far between for North Salinas. They were part of a three-way tie for first in 2008 in the then Tri-County Athletic League — their first league crown since 1985 when they also shared the title with two other teams (Gilroy and Live Oak).
The last time Vikings were outright champions was 1984.
As fate would have it North Salinas is locked in another three-team race for first, and has yet to play either of the two other contending schools — Alvarez and Gilroy. But it won’t have to wait much longer. The Vikings visit Alvarez next Friday, and after a date with North County, close the season at Gilroy.
North Salinas got off to a running start against Watsonville when David Dorr returned the opening kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown.
The Vikings came right back and scored again on a 66-yard drive, with Jacob Robante scoring from 10 yards out for a 14-0 lead and the game only five minutes old.
But no sooner did North High make it seem like it was going to deliver a quick knockout, when Watsonville came back to cut the margin to 14-10 at halftime.
The third quarter, however, was a field day for North Salinas.
It scored four touchdowns on just seven plays and needed barely three minutes to ignite a 28-point explosion.
Just like that the Vikings had a 42-10 lead with the third quarter not even half over.
It was a touchdown and turnover parade for the Vikings.
North High intercepted two passes and recovered two fumbles on four of Watsonville’s first five drives of the second half.
The other ended when the Wildcatz attempted to run for a first down from their own 35-yard-line on fourth-and-eight and were stopped cold.
Viking quarterback Justyn Gutierrez was 15-of-20 for 168 yards and two touchdowns — a 36-yarder to Randy Ivey and a 25-yarder to Josh Wilson.
Gutierrez completed six of seven passes in the third quarter alone for 86 yards and both touchdowns.
In addition to his kickoff return, Dorr had six catches for 52 yards.