Vikings to get crack at playoff berth on Saturday
By DOUG GORMAN
A little more than a month ago, Northgate head coach Tommy Walburn had to wonder if his team was ever going to win another football game.
Decimated by injuries to its backfield and offensive line, Northgate’s Wing-T offense was stuck in neutral.
Jump ahead to the 10th and final week of the regular season, and the Vikings are rolling, winning two-straight games and needing a victory in Saturday night’s Region 4-AAAAA play-in game against Mundy’s Mill to clinch a second straight trip to the GHSA playoffs.
Northgate, which finished third in the B-Subregion will battle the Tigers, also 4-5 overall this year, at Twelve Oaks Stadium in Hampton beginning at 7:30 p.m., with the winner advancing to next week’s first round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs.
Mundy’s Mill finished as the No.-2 seed out of Region 3A-AAAAA thanks to a victory over Drew, which nearly forced a three-way tie atop the A-subregion only to see Union Grove rally to clinch the subregion title. Union Grove hosts McIntosh and Drew travels to Creekside, which finished behind B-subregion champion Whitewater.
The Wildcats can wrap up a region championship with a win against Ola, the No. 4 seed out of 4A-AAAAA.
For Northgate, a win will also even the team’s overall record at 5-5, something that seemed impossible just a few weeks ago. The Vikings are trying to get to the playoffs for the fifth time in school history while also attempting to reach the postseason in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1999 and 2000 under then head coach Ron Beaucham.
The Vikings began their turn around two weeks ago with a 27-10 victory over Starr’s Mill when junior Benton Washington had a breakout game. The Vikings’ running back had been slated to start from the very beginning of the season, but was sideline for the first half the season with a broken arm.
Now healthy, Washington has emerged as one of the team’s marquee running backs. Against, Starr’s Mill, Washington put up a little more than 200-yards rushing. He kept it going with last Friday night’s 34-13 win over McIntosh with a 166-yard performance.
“We feel like things are really coming together,” Washington said after Friday night’s win. “We are playing as a team.”
Although he got late start on the season because of injuries, Washington is already the team’s second leading rusher with 470 yards. He also leads the team with five touchdowns.
T.J. Womack and Michael Willis are help add a three-pronged attack to the team’s running game.
Womack shifted over from the offensive line early in the season to help give some depth to the backfield when it was fighting off the injury bug as it has paid off in a big way. Womack has two straight 100-yards games.
“He’s really a smart player,” said Walburn said last week. “He has played several different positions for us and is just a really good football player.”
Womack heads into the game as the team’s leading rusher with 737 yards and four touchdowns.
Womack knows Saturday’s game is simply just a one-game playoff.
“Things are starting to come together,” he said minutes after last Friday’s victory. “We know this is like the second season for us.”
Willis has rushed for 455 yards and two two touchdowns. He has also caught a pass for the touchdown. He is also the Vikings third leading receiver with six catches, including one for a touchdown.
Northgate hasn’t thrown football a whole lot this season, but when they do, it has been consistant. Quarterback Josh Harrison has completed 48 of 62 passes for 596 yards and one touchdown. His has completed 77 percent of his attempts with 22 of those completions going to favorite target Brandon Facyson, who hauled in a 23-yard touchdown pass last week again McIntosh.
Mundy’s Mill earned it’s No. 2 seed in its half of the subregion with a 4-1 league mark. The Tigers lost four games in a row before moving into subregion competition where they picked up wins in four of their last five games.
Mundy’s Mill’s only subregion loss was a 35-13 decision to Union Grove. Northgate also lost to Union Grove 27-0 in a cross-over-game. Both Northgate and Mundy’s Mill knocked off Ola this season.
In addition to the Tigers victory over Ola, the Tigers’ other subregion wins included Mt. Zion (31-12), Drew (32-31) and Forest Park (55-8)
Mundy’s Mill will throw a group of talented running backs at the Vikings defense. Rodney Smith might be the Tigers’ most dangerous weapon. In Friday’s night’s 35-20 victory over Ola, Smith scored the first two times he touched the football, scampering into the end zone on 72 and 65 yards carries, He finished the game with 182 yards.
On defense, Tyberious Anderson recovered a fumble and returned it for a touchdown to help set the the tone for the Tigers’ victory.
Northgate’s defense comes into Saturday’s game playing some of its best football of the season. The Vikings have given up just 23 points in two games.
Facyson, Torres Johnson and Connor Usher each had five tackles last week to pace the team’s to the win.
Usher, a senior linebacker, has a team-high 97 tackles this season.
Adrian Tolbert and Dalton Lane each got to McIntosh quarterback Andrew Johnson last week for a sack en route to the win.
This will be the first meeting ever between the two schools.
Mundy’s Mill, which opened in 2003, is trying to get to the playoffs for just the second time.