Harris County too much for Northgate this timeBy JOSEPH C. MYERS
Special to The Newnan Times-Herald
HAMILTON — Unfortunately for Northgate's football team here Friday, the third time was the charm for host Harris County.
Harris County's Esias Chapman showed why he should be considered one of the top underclassman running backs in the state Friday night, finishing with 217 yards and four touchdowns on 24 carries to lead the Tigers to a 31-14 win over the Vikings in the opening round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs.
With the win, Harris County – which was hosting its first state playoff game in school history and has never advanced to the second round – will host either Warner Robins or Richmond Hill next week after winning a Region 1-AAAAA championship this year.
Northgate, which was coming off three straight victories including Saturday's 15-3 win at Mundy's Mill in its Region 4-AAAAA play-in game, ended its season at 5-6 after closing to within a 17-14 deficit while trailing the entire game.
Things started off optimistically for the Vikings, who recovered a fumble on the Tigers' opening possession at the Harris 19-yard line.
But Northgate senior quarterback Josh Harrison was picked off by TaQuon Marshall, who returned it 82 yards to the Northgate 8. One play later, Chapman scored his first touchdown on an 8-yard run and Harris County led 7-0 just over three minutes into the game.
The Vikings fumbled the ball away on their next possession and Harris County got a 25-yard field goal from Isaac Grimes to go up 10-0 with 5:36 still to go in the first quarter.
"We had some offensive success, but we just got too far behind," said Northgate coach Tommy Wallburn, having watched his team defeat an equally talented Tiger lineup 35-0 during last year's regular season. "You have to give credit to Harris County. They're a much-improved football team."
It stayed 10-0 until midway through the second quarter, when Harris County (7-4) put together a seven-play, 68-yard drive that Chapman finished off with a 14-yard touchdown run to put the Tigers up 17-0 with 7:50 remaining before halftime.
Northgate finally got its offense going with a 14-play, 80-yard scoring drive that took 7:32 off the clock. The Vikings converted two fourth downs on the drive and Harrison hit Brandon Facyson with a 15-yard touchdown pass to get the Vikings back to within 17-7 at halftime.
The Vikings got to within 17-14 on a 2-yard touchdown run by Benton Washington on Northgate's opening drive of the second half, but Harris County responded with a nine-play, 63-yard drive of its own. Chapman did the honors again with another 14-yard touchdown run and the Tigers re-established a 10-point lead at 24-14 with 4:33 left in the third quarter.
"I thought we had a chance when we got it back to 17-14, but Harris County came right back down and scored," said Walburn.
Harris County head coach Tommy Parks said responding immediately to the Vikings' scoring drive was crucial.
"Northgate came out of halftime and scored, but I was so proud of the way our kids reacted to that," said Parks, whose team has now won seven straight games since starting the year 0-4. "We did a good job of converting on our third downs and held them on third downs."
Harris County's defense stopped Northgate on downs inside the Tigers' 35 twice early in the fourth quarter — once following a Harris County fumble — and Chapman put the game out of reach with a 57-yard touchdown run to give the Tigers a 31-14 lead with 8:41 to go.
"Obviously, this was a total team effort," said Parks. "Whenever (Northgate) would get something going, we'd come right back and score. This was all about a total team effort."
Justin Wright was 6-for-10 for 105 yards through the air to lead the Harris County offense, with DiQuan Roberts catching three passes for 60 yards along with gaining 18 yards on three carries.
The Vikings were just 4-for-12 on third-down conversions, missing all five of their first-half chances. Washington had 88 yards on 15 carries to lead Northgate's ground attack, along with 36 yards on 11 carries from Michael Willis and 40 yards on 14 carries by T.J. Womack.
Harrison went 10-for-21 for 114 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Facyson was his top target, hauling in six passes for 60 yards.
SCORING SUMMARY – Harris County 31, Northgate 14
Northgate 0 7 7 0 — 14
Harris County 10 7 7 7 — 31
H – Esias Chapman 8 run (Isaac Grimes kick), 8:50
H – Grimes 25 FG, 5:36
H – Chapman 14 run (Grimes kick), 7:50
N – Brandon Facyson 15 pass from Josh Harrison (Zack Braun kick), 0:18
N – Ben Washington 2 run (Braun kick), 8:28
H – Chapman 14 run (Grimes kick), 4:33
H – Chapman 57 run (Grimes kick), 8:41