Spring Football: Veteran Northgate defense dominates scrimmage
By DOUG GORMAN
Northgate head coach Tommy Walburn expects big things from his defense this season.
With good reason, the Vikings are loaded with returning veterans, so it should be as no surprise that the defensive side of the football dominated Friday’s night’s controlled scrimmage at Henry Seldon Field to close out spring practice.
On a night when its own offensive and defensive units butted heads, the Vikings’ defense kept the football out of the end zone for at least the first nine controlled series.
The first score of the night came from the defensive unit when Conner Usher intercepted a pass and returned it 35-plus yards for the score. Aaron Stargell also had an impressive interception late in the scrimmage, grabbing the ball along the sidelines and falling out of bounds.
“I think the positive thing about this football team is its attitude,” Walburn said. ”The kids are working really hard. They want to have a good football team and they are coming to work every day.”
Walburn isn’t surprised his offense is still a little bit behind the defense.
The Vikings head into fall trying to replace quarterback Brett Misutka and running backs and co-offensive players of the year Alex Lakes and Payton Usher.
Early on, the offensive unit showed its growing pains during Friday’s scrimmage.
“We had too many penalties on offense, things like jumping offsides and illegal formations.” he said. “Those type of things will get you killed and we try and coach against that. Those are things we can correct. That’s why we bring the refs out here.”
(To view or purchase photos from this scrimmage, please visit http://photos.times-herald.com/mycapture and click on Sports / Football for the Photo Gallery.)
There were some signs of life by the offense, especially late in the scrimmage that lasted about 90 minutes. Projected starting quarterback Josh Harrison hooked up on a couple of long passes. Back-up quarterback Tyler Rollins also looked sharp at times.
“The good thing about the way our quarterbacks played was we didn’t put the ball on the ground,” Walburn said.
The new guys who are stepping into the back field are still adjusting to the speed of the game at the varsity level.
“These guys have played in the junior varsity and the middle school (programs),” Walburn said. “They are used to bouncing it out and going around the end, but we have a good defense and they weren’t able to do that. I think our offense got better as the scrimmage went on.”
The Vikings offense was handicapped a little bit going into the final scrimmage of the spring as several offensive lineman were held out because of injuries.
“All and all it was a good spring, but we are not where we want to be,” Walburn said. “I don’t feel like we are anywhere the team we were this time last year. The positive thing is the way our region is set up, we play five games before we get into the subregion.”
Walburn said the summer workout programs will be vital to the team’s hopes of repeating at region champions and going deep into the playoffs.
The Vikings will regroup on June 4th to start their summer workout programs. Northgate’s workouts will include passing leagues and weight-lifting sessions.
“We workout in the morning, and then later on in the summer, we will go out and throw against other teams,” he said. ”I am not like a lot of coaches, who go out and do all sorts of passing leagues, because I think that takes away from time in the weight room and stuff like that.”
Coach in the house:
Duke assistant coach Derek Jones observed part of Friday’s scrimmage from press box. Jones is on a recruiting swing through Georgia and Florida. NCAA rules prohibit college coaches from committing on recruiting before a player signs his letter of intent, but the Blue Devils’ assistant hopes to continue Duke’s trend of signing players out of Georgia, including possibly finding a player of two off the Northgate roster.