Vikings put ball in Rowland’s hands looking for first victory
by Doug Gorman
After playing two quarterbacks to begin the season, the Northgate Vikings have settled in on a starter.
Junior Tyler Rowland will line up under center starting Friday at home against North Clayton.
In its first two games, a 14-7 loss to Heritage-Conyers, and a 35-0 loss to Griffin last week, Rowland shared the quarterback duties with junior Bo Zachary.
The quarterback battle began when Zachary transferred into Northgate from Valdosta High School in time for spring practice.
Rowland entered as the more experienced quarterback in terms of running the Vikings’ wing-t offense after serving as Josh Harrison’s backup last season.
Zachary was coming from Valdosta’s spread offense.
“Bo didn’t do anything wrong, but it’s a lot different coming from a spread offense, and we feel like if we are going to get better, we just have to have one quarterback,” Walburn said.
Walburn compared Rowland to Brett Mitsuka, the Vikings’ starting quarterback two years ago when they won the Region 3-AAAA title and finished the regular season 10-0.
“Tyler is a student of the game,” said Walburn. “He has been with us since he has been a freshman, I feel like letting him get more reps in practice and having one man taking the bulk of the snaps is only going to help us get better."
Northgate fans won’t see Zachary pouting on the bench.
“He handled it very well, Northgate head coach Tommy Walburn said. “He is grateful for the chance. He won’t sit on the bench. He can play wide receiver, return kicks and on defense in the secondary.”
The Vikings are still trying to get their offense to become a little more explosive this week against the Eagles.
Through two games, Northgate is only averaging 288 yards per game. Their passing game has only picked up 34 yards through the two contest with Rowland completing all four of the team’s passes.
Northgate has shown its ability to put the ball in the hands of several ball carriers led by senior Benton Washington, who has 98 yards over two games as well as the Vikings lone touchdown this year when he found the end zone against Heritage in the season opener.
Freshman running back Ton Evans is also beginning to gain touches in his first varsity season. The ninth grader, who starred at Madras last year, led Northgate’s final drive against Griffin, one that was eventually stopped at the goalline. He 75 yards on just five carries, nearly all of them coming against the Bears.
Senior fullback T.J. Womack is also among the team’s leading rushers with 61 yards.
North Clayton is also trying to find a way to generate offense having been outscored 82-7 in the first two games.
“Their motivation is they are playing a team that is 0-2 too,” Walburn said. “They are looking at us and saying we got shutout by Griffin. They have some good athletes, they have a new coach and their numbers are a little down this year, but the 11 they put on the field are good football player, but my main concern is Northgate. If we don’t get better, it doesn’t matter who we play.”
North Clayton could find moving the football a difficult again this week. Despite giving up 35-points to the Bears, Northgate’s defense has been flying to the ball.
Linebackers James Skalski and Ryan Fagerstrom led the team in tackles last week, and Skalski had an interception that he returned deep into Griffin territory.
Senior safety Torres Johnson had 10 tackles.
The Northgate coaching staff shuffled around some of its personnel this week, and there could be more changes as the team gets into the heart of the season.
“We spent a lot of time up here last weekend trying to figure out what we need to do,” he said. “I told the coaches, we have to look at our personnel and find out what each person can do.”
Despite the slow start, Walburn is pleased with the way his team is working to get better.
“I am going into my fourth year as head coach here at Northgate, and I don’t think we have had a bad practice,” Walburn said. “All the goals we set for the team are still ahead of us. That is the attitude we need heading into the rest of the season. We want to be 1-0 each week.”