Usher brothers help lead Northgate to first 3-0 start in 11 seasons

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Senior Payton Usher, and brother Conner, a junior, have been equally a big part of Northgate’s early success on opposite sides of the ball. Payton ran for 172 yards and three touchdowns last week at Ola, while Conner had 10 tackles at inside linebacker.

By DOUG GORMAN dgorman@newnan.com Whenever there's been a big play involving the Northgate Vikings this year, chances are an Usher has had some part in directing it toward a victory. Last week, senior Payton Usher led the Vikings with 172 yards rushing and three touchdowns in a rout of Ola and now averages 9.7 yards per carry with 311 yards on the season.
Younger brother Conner, a junior inside linebacker, has equally thrived in his two games this year, posting 25 tackles, including 10 last week in the 42-14 win over the Mustangs. Together, the duo have been just one big part of the first 3-0 start Northgate's football program has seen in 11 years. The Vikings make a bid for a fourth-straight win to open the 2011 season on Friday in their Region 3B-AAAA opener at Fayette County. "They are not only good football players, they are really good people," Northgate head coach Tommy Walburn said of the brothers. "They are good students, and good citizens too. They are fun to be around." Walburn admits its not just the fact that Payton plays on offense and Conner lines up on defense that makes the two brothers different. They also bring unique personalities to the gridiron. "They made me feel comfortable when I first got here," Walburn said. "People don't realize how much time as coaches we spend with other peoples' kids away from our own families, but they sure mean a lot to me, and a lot to Northgate." Playing football at Northgate has turned into a family tradition for the Ushers, especially for Payton, who is now playing with his second brother. Older brother Sterling previously wore Conner's No. 23 with the Vikings as Payton came on board with the varsity. The current Usher duo have been playing football on the same team going all the way back to their youth league days when they were 10. "It's been a lot of fun playing with my brothers," said Payton, who is just one of a trio of running backs who are racking up big numbers for the Vikings. Senior fullback Alex Lakes leads Northgate with 396 yards and two touchdowns, while Kyle Kovacs has rushed for 136 yards and a score while playing both at fullback and wingback. "We work hard every day," Payton said. "We really go out there and buy into what the coaches are telling us, and the line is really coming through this year too. There is no selfishness on this team. We have a balanced attack. Other teams can't just concentrate on one player." While Payton has seen some action with his brother on defense at cornerback, Conner has enjoyed watching his brother break off runs for big yardage while resting up on the sidelines. "It's really cool to play with him," Conner said. "He is fun to watch." Conner started part of last season before an injury against Whitewater ended his year. Now, he is back in mid-season form and just glad to be making a contribution. "It's good to be back," he said. "We feel like we can go far this year." The brothers admitted much of last year's 5-5 season was spent adjusting to the new coaching staff. That transition, however, after three big wins, seems to have seen its conclusion. "Everybody is comfortable and knows each other now," Conner said. "On defense after two years we understand what we are supposed to do." For Payton, having spring practice and the summer to get ready for the 2011 season as made the difference in the team's ability to score more than 40 points a game, and hold opponents to just over 10 points per contest in the first three games "That's made a huge difference," Payton said. "This time we have a a couple more months to get ready for the season." The winning attitude has members of the Northgate football team thinking about winning the region and making the playoffs. "We just have to keep working hard and doing what the coaches tell us, and I think we can go far," said Payton.


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