Prep Football: Northgate gets shot at playoffs tonight
By DOUG GORMAN
There’s good reason for tonight’s Region 4-AAAAA football contest between Northgate and Mundy’s Mill taking on the feel of a playoff game.
It practically is. That’s because the winner of tonight’s game between the Vikings and the Tigers at Twelve Oaks Stadium in Hampton decides who advances to the first round of the playoffs and who stays home and packs away the football equipment until next year.
Northgate head coach Tommy Walburn hasn’t had to do a lot of lecturing about the importance of tonight’s game.
“Last year we at this time we were locked into the playoffs,” he said. “This time, you either win or you are done.”
After going 10-0 last year during the regular season, Northgate hasn't had it is so easy this year. The Vikings have battled through injuries and its share of growing pains this time, but seems to be clicking on all cylinders at the right time.
Once running back Benton Washington returned from a broken arm, he helped the team’s Wing-T offense beginning to click. The junior running back as rushed for more than 300 yards of total offense in the last two games.
T.J. Womack has also rushed for more than 100 yards in each of the past two games.
With East Coweta transfer Michael Willis also capable of picking up big yardage out of the backfield for the Viking’ offense, the team has a triple threat running attack.
Northgate’s strong running game allows the Vikings to also set up their passing attack. Even though the Vikings don’t pass much, quarterback Josh Harrison has thrown for 596 yards and four touchdowns.
One of the Vikings’ biggest offensive threats is Brandon Facyson, who has been on the receiving end of 22 of Harrison’s 48 passes.
“It was one of our goals to be playing for something at the end of the season,” Walburn said. “We are playing much better, and we hope we can keep playing for something. If you don't win, you are done and you won’t be practicing on Monday.”
A week ago, the Vikings put together their most complete game this year with a 34-14 victory over McIntosh. Washington and Womack each gained over 160 yards and the defense turned in a solid effort getting to quarterback Andrew Jackson several times.
“Hopefully, we can take that type of effort into this week,” Walburn said.
Walburn says playing on Saturday hasn’t really changed things.
“We haven’t played any Saturday games since I have been here, but I have had teams that have played on Saturday’s before at other places. We are going to go through a short wak through Friday, bring them in Saturday around 2:30 and then we are going to eat our pre-game meal about the same time, get on the bus, go over there and play and hope for the best. I think our kids are looking forward to playing on Saturday.”
Northgate faces a team in Mundy’s Mill that is loaded with some top-notch skilled players. The Tigers like to mix up the offense with a combination of running and passing.
Keith Kent lines up at several positions for the Tigers on offense with wide receivers Marquise Kempton and Eric Tate also in the mix.
Junior running back Rodney Smith hurt his knee in last week’s game against Ola and may not play. But despite some of the reports that have been posted on social media sites about the injury, Walburn is preparing for the game like the Tigers’ leading rusher is going to be in the game.
“He is really good, and we are preparing like he is going to play,” Walburn said.
Whoever lines up on offense for the Tigers will face a tough challenge against a defense that is getting better each week.
Defensive lineman Sean Spencer and De Andere Johnson have made it tough against opponents all season, and leading tackler Connor Usher secures the linebacking spot.
Facyson, Torres Johnson and Arron Stargel have each made it tough on wide receivers this season in the secondary.
This will be the first meeting ever between the two teams.