High School Football
Vikings quickly turn attention to Troup after rousing debut
by Chris Goltermann
The calendar has turned to September, but fall is taking its sweet time as usual in Georgia. Which means most head football coaches’ concerns remain threefold when it comes to preparing for Fridays in Coweta County.
In no particular order, they included:
2) Their opponents
3) The heat
On Tuesday, Northgate was busy trying to juggle all three while preparing to host Troup in search of a 2-0 finish to a quick non-region portion of the schedule.
The Vikings were able to cool off a Shaw team that was a step ahead in its acclimation to a four-quarter game in a 35-22 victory where Northgate jumped out to a two-score lead early and withstood the Raiders’ spread attack for the final three quarters.
“It worried me all week because they had played a whole game and we had played half of a scrimmage with our front line guys,” Northgate head coach Tommy Walburn. “I think we came out on both sides of the ball, and the kicking game, and did some good things the first quarter and a half or so.”
It was a solid start for the Vikings, especially considering 18 new starters split equally on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Six led an offensive front that churned out 290 yards rushing at more than seven per carry to go with four touchdowns.
Senior Kevin Teasley and sophomore Ton Evans each gained over 100 yards led by Evans’ 131 and a score on just 15 attempts. Teasley finished with 109 on 12 carries while juniors Kamari Ray (6 att., 36 yards, TD) and Jamie Skalski (4 att., 18 yards, 2TDs) were equally successful in their first official varsity action on offense.
“They’re a pretty good football team and we let them stay in the game. They cut it to 21-14 and we got the ball and drove it 77 yards and made it 28-14 and then punched another one in,” Walburn said. “I’m happy with it. But we still have a lot of things we need to work on.”
While hydration may have been near the top of Walburn’s list of concerns on Tuesday off the practice field in another 90-degree setting, Northgate expects to see a change of pace against Troup on Friday at Henry Seldon Field.
The Tigers, now grouped in a tough field of Region 5-AAAA that includes Carrollton, Sandy Creek and Whitewater, rolled over county rivals LaGrange 36-14 in what became the most lopsided of Troup’s seven wins over the LaGrange in the 22 annual meetings between schools since 1992. The Grangers have now dropped four of the last five in the rivalry.
After back-to-back weeks of facing spread offenses and quarterbacks with a throw-first mentality, Troup presents an old-school mentality not unlike that used during an 11-year span when Walburn and Northgate defensive coordinator Bubba Jeter led the Tigers program.
“They’re totally different than what we’ve seen from our first two opponents,” Walburn said. “Troup is split-back veer. Dive right, dive left. Run the option. We’ve been working all summer long on the spread. Now we’ve got to come back within three days and scheme for the veer. They do a good job. Like the first two teams we’ve played, they’ve got a huge offensive line. Defensively, they’re got good athletes.”
Current head coach Lynn Kendall was originally one of Walburn’s hires at Troup, which went 79-45 from 1999-2009 when both current Northgate coaches were at the helm and current East Coweta head coach Steve Pardue had a dominant program at LaGrange.
“I know the mindset of those kids down there, having spent most of my career down there, and what football means to them,” Walburn said. “They’re going to be fired up. It’s going to be fun to see how much we can improve between last Friday and this Friday.”
Starting 1-0 last week included holding the Raiders to 36 rushing yards and coming up with two key turnovers on defense, one of which resulted in Kyle Feldbauer’s fumble recovery in the end zone for a Viking touchdown.
At linebacker, Skalski and Feldbauer both finished with a sack while recording 17 and 11 tackles, respectively. Northgate also got a solid push up front from sophomore defensive linemen Dexter Hill (6 tackles, 3 for loss) and Jackson Sims (8 tackles, 1 for loss).
The Viking staff, however, may be looking to increase the number of contributors from the sidelines, especially if the forecast for near 90-degree temperatures continues for Friday with a slight chance of a thundershower.
“The thing that we talked about it that we’re going to have to get more players in the ballgame. Especially, if it’s going to stay hot. We already start a lot of sophomores, but we didn’t want to put too much on them early until they get used to it,” Walburn said. “What really hurt us in the second half was we only played five or six defensive linemen. Beginning of the game we were getting a good push. But by the end of the game, we were hardly getting any pass rush.”
Shaw tried to cut into a 21-0 deficit following Blankenship’s recovery. The Raiders finished with 330 yards passing, nearly half of which came on touchdown throws of 46, 31 and 64 yards, all from quarterback Caleb Bishop to David Whitehead.
“Defensively we came out and had two or three good stops early. But then we did some typical first game things,” Walburn said. “On two of the long touchdowns we had a defensive back in perfect position. It wasn’t like the guy was open. We just didn’t make the play on the ball. On one they threw a little screen and we didn’t tackle. That’s something we talk about all the time.”
Troup will be without its top statistical leader, however, on Friday. Senior running back Dre Towns (5-10, 200) suffered a broken leg on a fourth-quarter run after scoring four times before halftime against LaGrange while building an eventual 36-0 lead.
Tigers senior quarterback Will Smith (6-0, 170) leads the offense into Friday’s game, with junior running backs Mess Bonner (5-10, 180) and Dexter Shealey (6-0, 170) capable of picking up the load behind a massive front line. It includes seniors Mitch Mathes (6-3, 290), Jason Hernandez (6-0, 250), Tristan Thompson (6-3, 270) and junior Hudson Newton (6-0, 230).
Northgate hopes to counter with its own hopes of a ball-control offense while also looking to build on its passing attack, which was 2 of 3 for just 23 yards with an interception. Another pass to the end zone was called back on a procedure call, among 47 yards lost due to penalties.
“One thing we probably need to work on is our passing game. Just by the nature of the game, we didn’t throw it but three times. One of them they didn’t cover our receiver so we hit him,” Walburn said. “We’ve got to throw the ball. Just by the nature of the game, we wanted to control the clock. I was glad to get out there and get a ‘W’.”
TROUP TIGERS (1-0) AT NORTHGATE VIKINGS (1-0)
Friday, 7:30 p.m., Henry Seldon Stadium
The Skinny: Two teams coming off impressive debuts last week at home are poised to head in opposite directions after tonight. There’s some familiarity between programs, with Vikings head coach Tommy Walburn and defensive coordinator Bubba Geter having led the Tigers program from 1999-2009 before being reunited again at Northgate. The two, which swapped head coaching hats over the decade, went 79-45 during the span while also hiring current Troup head coach Lynn Kendall, now in his sixth year. Both teams have old-school offenses, Northgate with the wing-T and Troup with the veer-option.
Last Week: Troup defeated LaGrange 36-14 at Callaway Stadium. Northgate beat Shaw 35-22 at Henry Seldon Field.
Coaches: Troup — Lynn Kendall (5th season, 15-27 overall); Northgate — Tommy Walburn (14th season; 88-58 overall; 26-18 in five years at Northgate)
Last Week: Troup beat LaGrange 36-14, Northgate beat Shaw 35-22.
Series Record: First meeting.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Troup—OL Mitch Mathes, Sr. (6-3, 290), OL Jason Hernandez, Sr. (6-0, 250), QB Will Smith, Sr. (6-0, 190), DB Vanquez Bonner, Sr. (5-10, 170), RB Dexter Shealey Jr. (6-0, 170), DB Emmanuel Trammell, Sr. (5-8, 170), DE O.J. Zeigler, Sr. (6-1, 250).
Northgate—1 DB Malik Wade, Sr. (5 tackles, INT), 14 QB Tyler Rowland, Sr, (2-for-3, 23 yards), 21 RB Kevin Teasley, Sr. (12 car.,109 yds.), 25 LB Brody Lloyd, Sr. (3 tackles) 30 RB Ton Evans, So. (15 car., 131 yds. TD), 40 LB Kyle Feldbauer, Jr. (11.5 tackles, 1.5 sacks; fumble recovery for TD), 41 DL Dexter Hill, So. (6 tackles, 3 hurries); 47 RB/LB James Skalski, Jr. (17 tackles, 2 rush TDs) 50 LB Drew Latham, Jr. (6 tackles), 51 LB Jackson Dorman, Sr. (1 tackle), 59 OL Dylan Johnson, Sr.; 99 DE Jackson Sims, So. (8 tackles, 2 hurries)
When Troup Has the Ball: In a matchup of ball-control offenses, the Tigers will use the veer and the option to try and wear down a predominantly young Northgate defense. Sophomores Jackson Sims and Dexter Hill had a strong debut while junior linebackers Jamie Skalski and Kyle Feldbauer, a converted offensive lineman, each led the team with 10-plus tackles. Troup enters without game-one leader Dre Towns, who scored four times against LaGrange before suffering a broken leg in the fourth quarter. Mess Bonner and Dexter Shealey now become feature backs behind starting quarterback Will Smith. Look for Northgate to try and expand its defensive lineup this week while trying to keep players fresher than in the second half against Shaw last Friday. The Raiders threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns, with all three scores coming after Northgate built a 21-0 lead.
When Northgate the Ball: An offensive front with six new starters from tackle to tight end helped Northgate amass 290 yards rushing at more than 7 yards per carry. Returning running backs Ton Evans and Kevin Teasley both averaged at, or just under, nine yards an attempt while Kamari Ray and James Skalski both scored touchdowns in their first official varsity touches on offense. Ray was recently moved to offense and scored on his first carry of the season while Skalski came through with two scores in the win after contributing heavily on defense and special teams.
Still, look for the Viking to try and build more consistency in its passing attack. Senior quarterback Tyler Rowland had just three attempts, one of which on a heads-up throw to a receiver left open in coverage from the line of scrimmage.
This and That: Troup has played Coweta County’s other two GHSA schools in each of the past four seasons. The Tigers went 0-2 against East Coweta in 2010 (34-14) and 2011 (33-0) while also going 0-2 vs. Newnan in 2012 (21-14) and 2013 (17-7). Troup is 6-20-2 overall against both county foes.