Published Sunday, November 11, 2012
By DOUG GORMAN
HAMPTON – Northgate head coach Tommy Walburn doesn't like it when his teams miss out on the playoffs.
He hasn't had to worry about that too often during his 12-year head coaching career.
On Saturday night, the Vikings gave Walburn an invitation back to the postseason with a 15-3 victory over Mundy's Mill in a game played on the artificial surface of Twelve Oaks Stadium in Clayton County.
After battling injuries at the start of the season, the Vikings were't sure where their season was headed. Things turned around for Northgate three weeks ago, starting with wins over Starr's Mill and McIntosh.
"I am just as proud as I can be of the guys, we got things turned around and are going to the playoffs. That has been our goal all season," Walburn said.
Northgate closed out the regular season with a 5-5 record, including three wins in a row, to send the Vikings back to the playoffs for the second straight year. It will be Walburn's 10th trip to the postseason in a career that has also included coaching stops at Troup and Crisp County.
Northgate built a 9-3 lead at the half and then kept the Tigers out of the end zone during the final two quarters to secure the victory and set the stage for its first-round series game against Harris County, one of the Vikings' fellow opponents of Region 4-AAAA in 2010 and 2011.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Vikings put points on their half of the scoreboard when Zack Braun split the uprights on a 28-yard field goal with 8:29 left before the break for a 3-0 lead.
The Vikings could have easily put the ball into the end zone on the drive. Northgate's biggest play of the series came when running back T.J. Womack caught a pass from Josh Harrison on fourth down and converted it into a 15-yard catch to set up a first-and-goal situation. However, a series of penalties against the Vikings backed them away from the end zone, eventually forcing Braun's fourth field goal of the year.
The Vikings increased their lead to 9-0 moments later in the half when Womack took a handoff, pulled up and threw his second halfback pass of the year to Brandon Facyson on a 14-yard scoring strike. Womack threaded the needle between two Mundy's Mill defenders to find Facyson in the corner of the end zone for his third touchdown of the season. The extra point failed giving the Vikings a 9-0 lead.
Northgate appeared to have stopped the Mundy's Mill right before the end of the first half, but when the Tigers punted the ball back to the Vikings, the ball bounced off a Northgate up man who was unable to get out of the way of the football allowing the Tigers to recover and get one last chance to put points on the scoreboard.
After a couple of incomplete passes, Mundy's Mill cut the lead to 9-3 when Loc Chimi booted the ball through the uprights on a 24-yard kick as time expired.
The Vikings stopped the Tigers twice on fourth down in the second half. The biggest defensive stand of the night came midway through the final period after Mundy's Mill moved the ball into Northgate territory to the 49.
But instead of punting the ball back to the Tigers on fourth and long, they attempted to pick up the first down. Northgate seniors Connor Usher and Sean Spencer converged on play and threw quarterback Rodricous Gates for a 14-yard loss.
The Vikings took over at the Tigers' 37 and needed two plays to find the end zone.
Junior running back Benton Washington took the hand off, ran to the left side of the field, and scampered into the end zone with 6:10 left to play.
Still, down two scores with a little more than two minutes left in the game, the Tigers moved the ball inside the Vikings 5-yard line when Quinterious McClendon caught a 44-yard pass. Mundy's Mill ran three plays after the long catch, but on fourth down, a stifling Northgate defense stuffed the Tigers' last ditch scoring effort at the one.
"Defensively, we played about as well as we possibly could," Walburn said. "Now, its playoff football and you don't get points for style."
The Vikings also stopped drives by the Tigers with interceptions by Torres Johnson and Aaron Stargell.
Johnson's interception could have led to the Vikings' first touchdown of the second half . After pinning the Tigers' deep in their own territory, Northgate forced Gates to throw out of his own end zone right into the waiting arms of Johnson who was tackled around the four.
One play into the drive, however, Northgate gave the ball right back on a fumble.
Walburn knows the Vikings faced a good football team Saturday night, and he is just happy they were able to win.
"This was a strange game," he said. "I don't know if it was playing on Saturday, but we just didn't play really well at times. Mundy's Mill is a good football team. That is what I told them at the end of the game. They are going to be really good down the road."
The Vikings prevailed despite a sloppy performance at times that included three pass interference calls and 110 yards in penalties. Mundy's Mill also kept the field littered with penalty flags. The Tigers were called for 65 yards in penalties, including thee personal fouls.
Harris County comes into the playoff match up with the Vikings with a 6-4 record. Harris County is on a six-game winning streak, including an 18-12 victory over Thomas County Central.
Northgate owns a 2-0 series lead over Harris County, including last year's 35-0 region win, but Walburn expects the game to be a whole lot tighter.
"They are going to be out for revenge, because, they remember what we did to them last year," he said.
SCORING SUMMARY – Northgate 15, Mundy's Mill 3
Northgate 0 9 0 6 – 15
Mundy's Mill 0 3 0 0 – 3
N – Zack Braun 28 field goal, 8:29
N – T.J. Womack 14 pass to Brandon Facyson (kick failed), 1:28
MM – Loc Chimi 24 field goal, 0:00
N – Benton Washington 35 run (two-point PAT failed), 6:10