Published Wednesday, October 10, 2012
By DOUG GORMAN
Northgate head coach Tommy Walburn knows there’s more to beating Creekside Friday night at Henry Seldon Field than stopping the Berry twins, Evan and Elliott.
The junior defensive specialists are the brothers of the school’s most famous football alumnus, Eric Berry of the Kansas City Chiefs, a former All-American at Tennessee.
Evan and Elliott have been hot commodities for college recruiters since the day they stepped on the Fairburn campus two years ago, but Creekside has built a 4-2 overall record and a 1-0 mark in Region 4B-AAAAA thanks to a supporting cast that includes Damaurien Franklin and Darren Russell, as well as defensive specialist Trae Britt and Darren Grant.
Returning home after last week’s 33-26 loss at Whitewater, Northgate is again faced with stopping a potent offense.
The Seminoles (4-2, 1-0) have averaged close to 25-points per game this year and have piled up 111 points in its past three victories. Creekside’s offensive coordinator, Ben Anderson, a former Vikings OC, has used the Seminoles speed and athleticism to their advantage. Last week, the team opened the Region 4B-AAAAA schedule with a convincing 21-3 win over Starr’s Mill.
The Seminoles are in their first season under 27-year-old head coach Aaron Whittington, a former linebacker at UCLA. Whittington was a late replacement for predecessor Johnny White, who stepped down after leading the program to a 19-12 record in three seasons.
“They have a lot of athletes all over the field,” Walburn said. “They have three or four game breakers. It will be a challenge for us. They have a good football team.”
Some high school websites have posted that the game is scheduled for Fairburn, but it will be played on the campus of Northgate High School and Walburn is glad to be home after his team saw their double-digit halftime lead evaporate at halftime last week at Whitewater.
“Somehow the 2012 and 2013 schedules got flip-flopped, but we are home for the game against Creekside this year,” Walburn said.
On the heels of a three-game losing streak, Northgate will have the chance to snap Creekside’s three-game winning streak.
Creekside comes into the game with a 4-2 overall record and a 1-0 mark in subregion action.
During the team’s three-game win streak the Seminoles’ defense — led by the Berry twins — has yielded a combined three points. A pair, however, came against 0-5 lineups from Forest Park and Mt. Zion-Jonesboro.
The Vikings have dropped three consecutive games for the first time since the end of Walburn’s first season in 2010. Unlike a 23-0 shutout loss on Homecoming, Northgate returns to Henry Seldon with renewed confidence after a back-and-forth final half with Whitewater.
Last week, the Vikings built a 10-point lead at the half before falling by a late touchdown on a night where Wildcat running back Kendell Conley gained over 200 yards rushing with three scores.
Still, Walburn was pleased with the effort.
“I think it was one of our most complete games,” Walburn said. “I am not happy with the loss, but I think we played hard right up to the end.”
Whitewater wore down Northgate over the final two quarters, as injuries and a lack of depth started taking a toll on the Vikings’ defense, which was playing without senior defensive tackle DeAndre Johnson with a leg injury.
Northgate still had its share of good things happen to it.
Linebackers Connor Usher and Dalton Lane led the team with 15 and 13 tackles, respectively. Usher is the team’s leading tackler with 81 hits. Viking Andrew Brady also added an interception in the loss.
Northgate’s offense showed improvement a week after being blanked by Union Grove. In his second game back in the lineup after a broken arm, Benton Washington scored his first touchdown of the season while playing limited snaps. The backfield now has a solid four-man rotation in its wing-T with backs Michael Willis, T.J. Womack and Cole Carter.
Seniors Josh Harrison and Brandon Facyson continue to shine in the passing game. Harrison was 8 of 12 passing last week with Facyson, a Virginia Tech commitment, hauling in five of the throws.
Despite two tough losses back-to-back and a season that began with a slew of injuries, Walburn feels there’s still time for his team to get back into the playoff race in 4B-AAAAA.
“I feel really good about the kids attitudes,” he said, “I feel like if we continue to work, we are going to be okay, because there is still a lot of football to be played.”
After Friday night’s game against the Seminoles, Northgate gets a week off before playing on the road at Starr’s Mill.
Northgate then returns home to face McIntosh before closing out the regular season in a play-in game.
“We have to start winning, but I feel like some good things are going to happen,” Walburn said.