Prep Football: Northgate focused on picking up homecoming winBy DOUG GORMAN
Northgate’s Tommy Walburn admits he has mellowed a little bit during his 12 years as a head football coach.
When Walburn took charge of his first program at Troup County in 2001, he wanted his teams to stay as far away from all the hoopla that comes with Homecoming.
Just so long as his team remembers to focus on the first task at hand.
“When I first started, I wanted us separated from all the homecoming festivities, I guess that was just an old-time attitude," Walburn said. "Now, I will give them a speech and let them get involved as long as they know when we practice football is their first priority.”
Now, that Northgate is riding a two-game winning streak with wins against North Clayton and Ola, Walburn isn’t worried about the Vikings getting ready to play Friday night in its homecoming game against Union Grove.
“The two years that I have been here, we played really well on homecoming,” Walburn said. “I think sometimes as coaches, we make too big of a deal about distractions. Kids are pretty resilient. I have learned over the years that if you let kids have some fun, they have good enough judgment to be ready to play on Friday night.”
Union Grove comes into Henry Seldon Stadium as Northgate is playing its best football of the season. After dropping games to Heritage and Griffin to open the 2012 campaign, the Vikings are clicking on all cylinders.
Northgate has won two games in a row, outscoring North Clayton and Ola 63-33.
The Vikings are responding to the two-game winning streak with some solid practices, but Walburn says win or lose, his team has worked hard since he arrived at Northgate three years ago.
“It’s easy to practice when you are winning, but since I have been here, I think we have only had one bad practice since I have been here and that day, I think it was about 100 degrees. Our kids practice well every day.”
The Vikings received some good news earlier this week as running back Benton Washington began practicing and is expected to play starting Friday night. The junior running back has been sidelined since preseason with a broken arm.
Washington’s return gives the Vikings an additional weapon to throw at opponents out of its Wing-T offense.
In its victory against Ola last week, the Vikings stormed out of the game, scoring the first 27 points of the contest.
Although both teams were whistled for their share of penalties, Northgate still managed to move the ball at will against the Mustangs.
Northgate's offensive attack rolled up 432 yards of total offense.
Senior Michael Willis and T.J. Womack each gained 96 yards on the ground.
Northgate’s running game helped open the passing attack that accounted for 173 yards. Josh Harrison had his best game so far this year, completing 8 of 10 passes for 126 yards.
The Vikings also showed they aren’t afraid of a little trickery as they reached down into their bag of gadget plays when T.J. Womack threw a 47-yard halfback pass to Brandon Facyson for one of the scores.
Womack could again cause problems for the Wolverines’ defense. A week ago, he helped account for two of the Vikings touchdowns, throwing for the one and running for one.
Union Grove will also face a tough challenge trying to stop Facyson who grabbed five passes for 29.8 yards against Union Grove.
The Wolverines won their first two games of the year beating Locust Grove (25-21) and Woodland (22-14), but lost last week to Whitewater 39-0.
Although Whitewater was able to shutdown running back Derrick Craine, he presents a concern for Walburn.
“He is college prospect, and just a big kid,” Walburn said. “He also plays linebacker on defense.”
Austin Brown and Terry Gibbs are the biggest threats to catch the ball from quarterback Jason Sledge.
If Union Grove hopes to move the ball, they will have to do it against a Vikings’ squad that has been stingy the past two games.
Against Ola, Ryan Fagerstrom had 13 tackles and Connor Usher 12.
The Vikings also came up with four and a half quarterback sacks en route the win against Ola. Sean Spencer, Jackson Doorman, Fagerstrom and Usher had one sack each and Sylvester Johnson had half a sack.
Northgate opens its half of its subregion schedule next week at Whitewater.
The Vikings' final five games will be against teams from Region 4B-AAAAA.