Viking staff looking to fill 'holes' left by seniors
by Doug Gorman
Northgate head football coach Tommy Walburn and his staff have spent the spring trying plug in some holes left by graduation.
That what happens when a team is forced to replace more than 20 seniors, including three Division I prospects on the defensive side of the ball.
Northgate returns to the gridiron for the 2013 season fresh off its second straight trip to the playoffs.
The Vikings captured a region title two years ago, and struggled to overcome injuries last year before finishing with a 5-6 record and getting knocked out in the first round of the playoffs with a loss to Harris County.
Ten days of spring practice ends tonight when the Vikings conclude the sessions with a controlled scrimmage beginning at 7 p.m at Henry Seldon Field.
“We don’t divide up into teams,” Walburn said. “It is going to be a very controlled scrimmage, because I want to see different units get in there. We can evaluate them on film rather than divide them into split squads. Hopefully, we can get out of here without getting too many people injured.”
Gone are defensive lineman DeAndre Johnson (University of Georgia), Sean Spencer (Navy) and cornerback Brandon Facyson (Virginia Tech).
“When you have the type of guys we had last year, and not just the guys that got the big scholarships, but some other key players, there are going to be holes to fill. That’s just the way it is in high school football,” Walburn said.
Several players have spent the spring auditioning for a chance to step in as one of the replacements, but it will take the summer to solidify some of the offensive and defensive line spots.
One area where there is some depth is at linebacker with Ryan Fagerstrom and James Skalski turning in solid efforts during the last two weeks.
The Northgate coaching staff has also spent time evaluating quarterbacks the past 10 days.
When Northgate plays its first game at home against Heritage to open the season next August, it will put its third starting quarterback in as many years under center.
Last season, Josh Harrison stepped in and started every game for the Vikings, replacing Brett Misutka.
This year, a three-way battle has ensued at quarterback as Tyler Rowland, transfer Bo Zachary and Bryce Bates are all in the mix.
Rowland served as Harrison’s backup last year, and the junior came into spring practice with some experience.
“At this point, it is a really good quarterback battle. It’s really a healthy competition. They have all had a really good spring,” Walburn said.
It’s also been a busy time for the team’s Wing-T running attack.
Benton Washington is healthy after putting together a solid spring. Washington missed the start of last season with a broken arm, but will be counted heavily this year.
Washington also had a solid track season this spring for the Vikings, something that should have kept him in football shape.
“I love track,” said Walburn. “Track is one on one competition, and it helps their endurance.”
T.J. Womack is also putting together a solid spring for the Vikings. A year ago, Womack moved from the offensive line to the backfield and became one of the squad’s main ball carriers. This spring, he has divided his time between golf and football. Monday he plays in the individual state golf tournament, but the Vikings have been able to work around his hectic schedule.
“We understand that,” Walburn said, “He has been busy and we have tried to work around his schedule.
Kevin Teasley is also in the mix at running back.
After tonight’s scrimmage, the Vikings shift their focus to summer drills, which will include a few passing leagues and plenty of time in the weight room.
“I don’t like getting too carried away with passing leagues,” Walburn said. “Coaches that run the spread offenses will play a 100 passing league games, but in my opinion, it helps you on defense, especially covering people, but sometimes, you can get a false sense of security.”