Whitewater uses strong 2nd half, rallies past Northgate
By DOUG GORMAN
FAYETTEVILLE — If the Northgate Vikings had played the second half of Friday night’s game against Whitewater like the first, they might have marched out with a victory at Wildcat Stadium.
Whitewater had other ideas, rallying for a 33-26 victory in the Region 4B-AAAAA opener for both teams after outscoring the Vikings 20-3 in the final two quarters.
Despite the loss, it was a much better effort than what the Vikings produced last week after getting shut out by Union Grove on homecoming.
“We don’t believe in moral victories, and we are disappointed that we lost,” said Northgate head coach Tommy Walburn, “but this was a great effort, and we laid it all on the line tonight.”
Northgate built a 23-13 lead at the half, but couldn’t hold off Whitewater’s second-half offensive explosion. The Wildcats scored two touchdowns in the third quarter while limiting the Vikings to just seven offensive plays in the period to take a took a 25-23 lead.
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The Wildcats pushed ahead with back-to-back touchdowns led by Kendall Conley’s 200-yard rushing effort.
The Whitewater senior capped a 10-play, 78-yard drive for Whitewater on the opening series of the second half when he scored on a 7-yard run to trim the lead to 23-19.
Whitewater scored again on its next series marching 51 yards this time for the go-ahead score. The Wildcats overcame two holding penalties on goal-to-goal situations before Christian Wafford scored on a 10-yard run. The two-point conversion failed, but Whitewater still led by two.
Northgate led one more time midway through the fourth quarter when Zack Braun booted a 26-yard field goal with 6:09 left to play to give the Vikings a 26-25 lead. The Vikings marched from their own 20 yard line to set up the field goal. Northgate converted two third downs on the drive and also took advantage of a pass interference by the Wildcats. It was Braun’s second field goal of the year.
Northgate was unable to able to come up with a defensive stop following the field goal as Conley put the icing on the Wildcats victory cake on a 1-yard run with two minutes left. After missing two extra points and a two-point conversion, Whitewater closed the game out with a 2-point conversion following the last final touchdown.
The Vikings were without defensive lineman and University of Georgia commitment DeAndre Johnson and it played a small factor in helping Whitewater open up holes for Conley who finished with 204 yards on 26 carries.
Northgate built a 9-0 lead just eight minutes into the contest. After getting stopped on the opening series, the Vikings won the battle for field position when Andrew Brady punted the ball down inside the one. A Whitewater holding penalty in their own end zone gave the Vikings a safety and a 2-0 lead.
After getting the ball back, Northgate scored on Benton Washington’s 7-yard run to push a 9-0 advantage early.
Whitewater answered right back on its next series when quarterback Jay Ashley threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Trevor Morgan to complete a scoring march that took just two plays. Whitewater missed the first of two extra points on the night and trailed 9-6.
The Wildcats took their first lead of the game on their next series when Conley scored on the first of his touchdowns to give the Wildcats a 13-9 lead with 9:21 left.
The Vikings then took advantage of some breaks on their next two series scoring twice in the final two minutes of the second quarter.
T.J. Womack was hit at the goal line and fumbled the ball into the end zone after a 16-yard run, but senior offensive lineman Dustin Foley made a heads-up play to fall on the ball in the end zone for the touchdown.
Whitewater fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Northgate took advantage as Michael Willis rushed 18 yards for the final touchdown of the first half.
Northgate quarterback Josh Harrison was able to help the Vikings move the ball through the air with an 8 for 12 performance.
Harrison hooked up with Brandon Facyson on five catches for 56 yards.
The Vikings also had their running game going as Womack, Willis and Washington each scored touchdowns.
“I think our guys are starting to get more comfortable,” Walburn said. “There is a lot of football left to be played.”
SCORING SUMMARY – Whitewater 33, Northgate 26
Northgate 9 14 0 3 – 26
Whitewater 6 7 12 8 – 33
NG—Michael Willis 4 run (Zack Braun kick)
WW–Jay Ashley 39 pass to Trevor Morgan (kick failed)
WW—Kendell Conley 4 run (kick good)
NG—Dustin Foley recovers fumble in end zone, (Braun kick)
NG—Willis 18 run (Braun kick)
WW—Conley 7 run (kick failed)
WW—Christian Wafford 7-run (2 point conversion failed)
NG—Braun 26 field goal
WW—Conley 1 run (Ashley to Morgan 2-point conversion)