Northgate hoping to continue playoff push against rival McIntosh
By DOUG GORMAN
It’s starting to seem like old times for the Northgate Vikings.
After rolling over teams with a solid running attack last year and finishing with an undefeated regular season, the Vikings have had problems getting their Wing-T offense on track this season in part thanks to spending most the year battered and bruised.
Northgate rolled up plenty of real estate last week, pushing the Panthers around for more than 300 yards. That was the team’s most impressive offensive performance this year for the Vikings.
The win moved the Vikings’ record to 3-5 overall and 1-2 in Region 3B-AAAAA. With the victory, Northgate broke a three-game losing streak.
“It is always good to get a win,” Northgate head coach Tommy Walburn said. “We were able to do some things with our offense we had been struggling with the past few weeks.”
In addition to injuries, the Vikings have suffered from some bad luck this season, losing its two subregion games by a total of 11 points when it fell to Whitewater 33-26, and Creekside 20-16.
“The effort has always been there,” Walburn said. “Everyone has worked hard and it still has been fun.”
With two games left the Vikings will have to win both – Friday night at home against McIntosh and then in its cross over game against a team on the other side of Region 3-AAAAA – if it hopes to make a second straight trip to the playoffs.
Friday’s matchup with McIntosh gives the winner a the No.3 seed out of the subregion and sends them on the road against whoever finishes as the No. 2 seed in Region 3A-AAAAA. The loser will go into play-in game as the fourth seed.
Union Grove has secured the No.1 seed out of Region 3A-AAAAA, while Mundy’s Mill is currently second with a 3-1 record. Drew, which loses the tiebreaker Mundy’s Mill after dropping a game to the Tigers earlier this year, is third.
The crossover game becomes like a mini-playoff with the winner moving on to the first round of the GHSA playoffs.
Earlier this season, Northgate lost its cross-over game to Union Grove, falling to the Wolverines 23-0 on the Vikings’ homecoming.
Last week, Northgate broke its losing streak with impressive performances by Benton Washington who rushed for 200 yards and scored on touchdown runs of 1 and 17 yards and from T.J. Womack’s 102-yard performance. Womack found the end zone on 17 and 19 yards.
Washington is finally clicking on all cylinders after missing the first part of the season with a broken arm suffered in preseason practice this summer.
“He is healthy now and playing really like we thought he could,” Walburn said. “He is a smart kid who just loves to play football.”
Washington has carried the football just 37 times for 310 yards and is averaging 8.38 yards per carry, including three touchdowns.
T.J. Womack’s move from the offensive line to the backfield has paid dividends for the Vikings. Womack made the switch when both Washington and Michael Wills got hurt early in the season and his ability to pick up yardage gives the team and added dimension.
“He is a great football player who is able to play just about anywhere on the field,” Walburn said.
Womack comes into the last two games of the season as the team’s leading rusher with 573 yards and three touchdowns. Willis is making the most of his senior year, rushing for 420 yards and two touchdowns.
The Vikings have also shown they can throw the football this year. Senior quarterback Josh Harrison has completed 55 percent of his passes, going 41 of 74 for 573 yards, three touchdowns and just one interception.
Defensively, the Vikings come into the game off one of the best performances of the year after allowing just 10 points.
The Vikings did a good job getting to the quarterback in last week’s victory over Starr’s Mill as Dalton Lane, Blake McCollum and Sean Spencer each had a sack.
Northgate’s challenge on defense could again be trying to get to the quarterback. Andrew Johnson is a three-year starter for the Chiefs, and has led the team to a 5-3 record, their best mark in nearly two decades.
Johnson and the Chiefs won their first three games to start the season and have also beaten Starr’s Mill and Mundy’s Mill.
The Chiefs, who use a spread option, have averaged 27 points in their five victories.
“They are really well coached, and are doing a really good job. Their offense does a good job moving the football and they have a scrappy defensive,” Walburn said.
The annual game with the Chiefs is turning into a good rivalry. Although Northgate leads the series 5-3, McIntosh won the 2010 and 2009 games.
This could be the biggest game in the nine-game series.
“We know that there is a whole lot at stake,” Walburn said. “This game could set the table for what is going to happen the rest of the season.”