Vikings look to keep win streak alive at Union Grove
by Doug Gorman
After struggling in its first two games, the Northgate Vikings' offense appears to be clicking on all cylinders heading into this week's Region 4-AAAAA crossover game Friday night against Union Grove in McDonough.
The Vikings are on a two-game winning streak, having racked up 99 points in the last two contests including a record-setting 63-7 victory over Ola on homecoming to push their record to 2-2.
'It's one of those games that happens every now and then that just happens to go your way,' said Northgate head coach Tommy Walburn. 'When the game started, we didn't really feel like it would snowball like that.'
The Vikings' wing-t offense put together a clinic Friday night with a 432-yard rushing effort that included seven rushing touchdowns between senior Benton Washington, freshman Ton Evans and junior Kevin Teasley.
On just five carries, Washington found the end zone three times on a 154-yard effort while Evans showcased his potential with fourth-quarter scores of 46 and 81 yards while finishing with 141 on eight attempts.
The win helped continue Northgate's recent momentum following an 0-2 start against Heritage-Conyers and state-ranked Griffin.
'Even though we preached after the first two ball games two keep your head up, and that the season is ahead of us, you can see what winning has done over the last two weeks,' Walburn said. 'The locker room is more upbeat.'
The Vikings, however, will have to refocus their efforts on a threegame stretch that is tougher on paper than any point in the 2013 schedule. Following Friday's trip to Union Grove, Northgate will open Region 4B-AAAAA play against Whitewater and Creekside, who are both 4-0 heading into this week.
Union Grove (3-1) is coming off its only loss, a 36-19 decision to Whitewater last week, with a lineup that includes key returners from a team that defeated Northgate 23-0 at Henry Seldon Field in 2012 on homecoming.
'It is definitely a step up in competition for us,' Walburn said. 'They lost last week, but Whitewater might be the best team in our region.'
Union Grove jumped out to a 3-0 record this year, beating Locust Grove (34-16), Woodland (28-14) and Forest Park (24-0).
The Wolverines are led this year by junior 6-6 junior quarterback Jonathan Slade and running back Luke Parker. Both were part of the team's 12-3 playoff run last year.
One of those Union Grove victories came when it shutout Northgate 23-0.
'We didn't play very well against them last year,' Walburn said, 'It was homecoming, but I don't know what it was. It might just have been Union Grove was good.'
The Vikings hope their ability to bust big plays for touchdowns continues on the road Friday night against the Wolverines.
Last week, Northgate running backs sprang free on four touchdown of 21 yards or greater with the longest run coming with just over a minute to go when Evans found the end zone on an 81-yard run. Earlier in the quarter, Evans also rushed for 46 yards and a touchdown It finished off a 141 yard performance on just three carries for the Vikings freshman, who has bypassed playing with the freshman and JV teams to make an immediate impact.
Four games into the season, Walburn admits Evans isn't playing like a normal freshman.
'He is not that big yet,' Walburn said. 'He is just quick, and he loves football. He listens to the coaches. He is smart and he is just trying to get better. I have coaches some talented guys that went on to play at the Division I level, but it is not everyday you have a players who is ready to make an impact right away.'
Northgate's defense faces a Union Grove team that has scored 105 points in four games.
However, several guys are stepping it up this year for the defensive side of the ball for the Vikings.
Torres Johnson had 10 tackles and Ryan Fagerstrom 11 en route to holding the Mustangs to just 12 yards last week.
'We are not very big on defense,' Walburn said. 'The defensive coaches have done a great job getting kids ready to play. I think our strength in defense is our quickness. I think we are quicker and faster on defense since I have been here. I don't know how good we are individually, but we are playing well as a unit.'