Prep Football: Northgate tries to stay the course

BY DOUG GORMAN Northgate coach Tommy Walburn had one message for his team after Friday night's 33-26 loss to Whitewater to open the Region 4B-AAAAA half of the subregion. "There's still a lot of football left to be played," he said.
Walburn sounded more like a proud father while praising Northgate's effort despite being outscored 20-3 in the final two quarters after going to halftime with a 23-13 lead in Fayetteville. "They left it all on the field. That's all we can ask for," Walburn said. After running the table on it regular season opponents last year and finishing with a perfect 10-0 record, this year's team has struggled to find its way. The Vikings are averaging just a little over 15 points per game compared to a year ago when they rolled past opponents by putting up nearly 30 points per contest. Despite the loss Friday, Northgate played one its most complete games of the year. In the first half Northgate, converted turnovers into touchdowns, played well on special teams and even led with just over six minutes left when Zack Braun booted a 26-yard field goal. It was a total turnaround from the previous week when Northgate failed to get anything going on offense and defense before losing a homecoming game to Union Grove 23-0. Part of Northgate's rollercoaster ride can be blamed on injuries. Both sides of the ball have been affected by players missing time and trying to insert players into unfamiliar spot. Running back Benton Washington is finally getting healthy. The junior running back missed the first four games with a broken arm, taking a big chunk out of the Vikings' backfield. Although he is still trying to get back to one-hundred percent, he presence could help the Vikings down the stretch. Running back Michael Willis has also been visited by the injury bug after spraining his ankle in the season opener at Heritage-Conyers, but Friday night he found the end zone on a couple of carries. With Washington and Willis getting healthy, the Vikings now have a threepronged attack out of their backfield. T.J. Womack shifted to the fulback after the beginning of the season from the offensive line and has become the Vikings' leading rusher, with more than 400 yards. Senior quarterback Josh Harrison was 8 of 12 passing, with Brandon Facyson hauling in five catches. Defensively, the absence of lineman De'Andre Johnson could have been a huge factor in the loss to the Wildcats. Johnson has been a force in plugging up the middle, but at the end of the game, running back Kendall Conley was able to bust through holes in the Vikings defense en route to scoring the final touchdown with two minutes left. The Vikings will have a chance to snap their two-game losing streak on road next week at Creekside (4-2, 2-1). The Seminoles stopped Starr's Mill 21-3 last week. Meanwhile, play in Region 3-AAAAAA and GISA Region 2-AAA begins this week after four local teams sat out byes. Newnan and East Coweta begin 3-AAAAAA schedules on the road at Tri-Cities and Westlake, respectively. The Heritage School and Trinity Christian head toward Macon to open play in GISA 2-AAA against Mount de Sales and Stratford Academy.

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