Prep Football Notes: Trinity, Northgate defenses do the job
By CHRIS GOLTERMANN and DOUG GORMAN
What a difference a year has made for Trinity Christian’s defense. So far after three games, the Lions have allowed just three touchdowns, a huge improvement over a 2011 season where Trinity Christian allowed a whopping 42.5 points over its eight losses.
During Friday’s 42-0 shutout over Dominion, coordinator J.P. Weaver’s unit allowed 116 yards, 84 of which came out of the Knights’ shotgun offense. The Lions forced a pair of turnovers, a fumble caused by Joe Hogan and recovered by Rodney Neely, as well as an interception by junior Avery Braxton in his first game back in the lineup from injury.
“We are getting there,” Weaver said. “There’s still lots of improvement and work ahead if we want to get where we need to be as a team.”
The most impressive effort could have been in Trinity Christian’s opening 14-6 loss to John Milledge, which remains unbeaten at 4-0 in Class AA after rolling past the GISA’s other Trinity Christian School out of Dublin.
GIBSON PACES TRINITY CHRISTIAN ATTACK
Relegated to the sidelines last year as a spectator, Trinity Christian senior Drew Gibson has made the most of an opportunity to get back on the field this year. Granted a medical waiver by the GISA after being hospitalized with Guillain-Barre syndrome that initially left him paralyzed, Gibson has worked his way back to 100-percent as a two-way contributor at linebacker and fullback.
Gibson, senior Jay Warner and junior Donterious Snelling helped combine for 397 yards rushing on Friday. Gibson had 178 of the total with four touchdowns while Warner had 135 and Snelling 88.
The trio in Trinity’s diversified run attack all averaged well over 10 yards per carry (Gibson 10.4; Warner 13.5, Snelling 12.5).
Head coach Chris Hanson equally gave credit to a young offensive line in the victory.
“The running game was good and the line blocked decent tonight,” Hanson said. “They didn’t get every block, but we were able to get some of our younger guys in there to get some experience.”
NORTHGATE GETS ONE-TWO PUNCH ON DEFENSE
Despite struggling a bit defending third-downs against North Clayton, Northgate consistently put the Eagles in long-yardage situations. Outside a 22-yard gain late in the fourth quarter by their opponent, the Vikings defense did not yield a play of more than 10 yards on first or second downs during their 29-8 victory at Henry Seldon Field.
Northgate made four stops behind the line of scrimmage on second down including tackles by defensive lineman Rashad Menefee, linebacker Connor Usher and defensive end Sean Spencer.
Second downs netted just 10 yards on 12 plays for North Clayton compared to 43 on first down and 69 on third down.
Senior defensive tackle DeAndre Johnson also had a tackle behind the line of scrimmage and later got his hands on a pass at the line of scrimmage to force a punt in the third quarter during a solid performance. University of Georgia assistant John Lilly was expected to be in attendance during Friday’s win, though he wasn’t spotted on the sidelines at Henry Seldon Field.
North Clayton standout tailback Ladrius Mathis was held to 43 yards rushing on 15 carries.
HEADS UP PLAY
Northgate finished Friday’s victory without a turnover, a big improvement from the four the Vikings had in the 2012 opener against Heritage-Conyers. They did it, however, thanks to a heads-up play by junior Aaron Stargell, who was “Johnny on the spot” when teammate Brandon Facyson lost the handle on a punt return near midfield. The ball bounced to the right and Stargell scooped it up for extra yards that led to Northgate’s final scoring drive from the North Clayton 36-yard line.
NORTHGATE SURVIVES INJURY SCARES
The Vikings got a huge boost from the return of Facyson and Michael Willis from ankle injuries. While Facyson played against Griffin, head coach Tommy Walburn admitted the Virginia Tech commitment was well below 100-percent healthy and spent the night double and triple-teamed on offense.
On Friday, the senior receiver caught a long 2-point conversion as well as two passes for 24 yards and a pair of first downs, but remained on the turf following the second while holding his ankle. As a precautionary measure, he left the game and had it iced through the fourth quarter before walking off the field without any limp.
DeAndre Johnson also gave Northgate coaches a bit of a scare when he went down to the turf following a run with a leg cramp. He returned to the game after walking off the field on his own power.
EAST COWETA GROWS UP
The 31-7 loss to Sandy Creek on Thursday night didn’t tell the whole story.
Yes, the Patriots are good and worth of their No. 1 state ranking, but despite only putting the ball in the end zone one time when Bryce Gemmel connected on a 26-yard touchdown pass to Wyatt Potter late in the fourth quarter, the Indians managed to move the football up and down the field on several occasions.
They just couldn’t stick the ball in the end zone, fumbling once on the goal line to kill one touchdown drive.
Still for the team that had to replace 32 seniors to graduation last year, Clint Wade sees some signs that his team is growing up.
“I hope so,” he said. “We are playing hard, and that is all I can ask for.”
East Coweta’s schedule will make a team grow up fast. The Indians first six non-region games are against teams that made the playoffs last year.
Friday night they entertain the Lovejoy Wildcats. Lovejoy won its first 14 games of the regular season last year before falling to Tucker in the Class AAAA Finals in the Georgia Dome.
Lovejoy is 2-1 this year with its only loss coming to Colquitt 14-7.
After their game with Lovejoy, the Indians hit the road for the longest road trip of the year when they head across the state line for a game against Central in Phenix City in Alabama.
Although Central lost on Friday night to Opelika, they entered the week ranked 10th in at least one high school football poll in Alabama.