High School Football
Vikings control destiny in subregion showdown
by Doug Gorman
It might take a statistics major to figure out playoff scenarious in Region 4-AAAAA scenarios heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.
With 11-teams subdivided into two divisions and fighting it out for four playoff spots, next week's play-in games could go along way in deciding who makes the postseason.
But before Northgate worries about how the playoffs might unfold, the Vikings know they need to go ahead and take care of business tonight Friday night on the road against McIntosh.
A victory against McIntosh is essential if they hope to have any chance of advancing to the state playoffs for a third straight year.
Both the Vikings and Chiefs enter the contest with 1-2 subregion records and in a tie for second place behind Creekside (9-0, 4-0) in the Region 4B-AAAAA standings. The Vikings (4-3, 1-2) broke a two-game losing streak last week with a 17-14 victory over Starr's Mill behind a huge defensive effort.
McIntosh (6-2, 1-2) won its first six games, before stumbling with two straight losses to Starr's Mill (42-21) and Creekside (41-10).
Walburn likes the way his team has practiced this week coming off the much-needed win.
'When your players have set a goal to get into the state playoffs, and you still have an opportunity to get in, that makes players practice harder,' he said.
Northgate's defense held the Panthers to just 59 yards rushing. The defensive numbers included three stops on fourth down.
'It might have been one of the best defensive efforts we had since I have been here,' Walburn said.
Linebacker Ryan Fagerstrom helped make it a long night for the Starr's Mill offense with 15 tackles.
James Skalski had 11 tackles. Fagerstrom and Christian Gaston each had an interception.
The Vikings led from start to finish, but had to recover an onside kick to preserve the win.
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The victory included a little trickery as T.J. Womack completed a fourth-down pass to Kevin Teasley in the end zone for a final touchdown with 2:10 left in the game.
Northgate was fueled by a 164-yard effort from running back Benton Washington and 91 yards from Womack.
Washington comes into Friday's contest with McIntosh leading the team with 746 yards and eight touchdowns.
Womack has rushed for 608 yards and four touchdowns. Teasley is also a third cog in the Vikings' backfield with 405 yards and two touchdowns.
Quarterback Tyler Rowland has shown his ability to hit receivers out the backfield for three interceptions.
Walburn is happy with the way the team's run-oriented offense has operated through eight games. However, he admits there have been times the Vikings haven't finished drives.
'We have had good yardage, especially after we got through the first couple of games' Walburn said. 'We settled into some personnel. We are a young team, that is not an excuse, but we have started three sophomores upfront, but it takes those guys, time to getting going and get used to varsity football.'
Improving its red-zone production could be the key down the stretch for the Vikings.
'We are averaging more than 300 yards against teams, and we are getting the ball inside the 20, but we have had problems at times cashing in. It has cost us a couple of games.'
The Chiefs don't have too much tradition when it comes to their football program. Since opening in 1982, this will only be the school's fifth non-losing season.
However, Walburn isn't worried about the past.
'According to a lot of people, this might be the best team McIntosh has ever had,' he said.
This will be the 10th meeting between the two schools with Northgate holding a 6-3 edge.
The Vikings have won the last two meetings, winning 34-13 last year and 30-13 in 2011 during Northgate's undefeated regular season.
'They have 34 seniors,' Walburn said. 'These are the same guys that have been playing us the last three years,' Walburn said.
Northgate's biggest challenge might be trying to stop a Chiefs' offense that has shown the ability to put points on the board.
Mcintosh enters the game averaging 27.5 points per contest.
The Chiefs' biggest weapon centers around senior quarterback and three-year starter Andrew Johnson.
The 6-0, 190-pounder will challenge the Vikings defense with his ability to pass or run.
According to Rivals.com he has drawn interest from several school, getting offers from Air Force, Citadel, Davidson, Kennesaw State and Presbyterian. 'He might be the best all-around quarterback we have seen all year,' Walburn said.
Walburn knows playing on the road means the Vikings will have to be on top of their game.
'In our region right now, if you play at home, you have a significant home-field advantage,' he said. 'Everybody in the subregion does, so that will be a factor also.'