Last-Second Field Goal
Vikings give Union Grove the boot
by Doug Gorman
MCDONOUGH — The Northgate Vikings couldn’t have scripted Friday night’s Region 4-AAAAA cross-over game against Union Grove with any more drama.
Using the clock to their advantage, the Vikings marched the ball inside the Union Grove 5-yard line with just seconds to go.
From there, sophomore kicker James Skalski drilled a 23-yard field goal right down the middle as time expired to give Northgate a 17-14 victory.
The victory moved Northgate’s record to 3-2 and gave the Vikings their third win in a row.
“I was confident in the kick, and I knew the guys were going to block for me, and I was going to kick it through,” Skalski said.
Northgate started the winning streak with a victory over North Clayton and then beat Ola last week for homecoming.
Friday’s victory was a some payback after the Wolverines beat Northgate 23-0 last year.
“This is really a step up in competition,” Northgate head coach Tommy Walburn said. “Union Grove is really a good football team. I am so proud of the way we played.”
With the game tied at 14-14, Union Grove had a chance to drive for the possible game-winning score after taking possession of the football with 3:42 left in the game, but the Vikings’ defense got the ball back to set up the game-winning kick.
Defensive back Matt Smith got his hands on Union Grove’s pass and Armond Upshaw raced toward the ball and intercepted it with just over two minutes remaining.
A couple of runs by both Benton Washington and Kevin Teasley kept the first down sticks moving for the Vikings.
Washington picked up one of the first downs when he converted a third-and-six play with the clock ticking down.
One play later, quarterback Tyler Rowland completed his sixth and most dramatic pass of the night when he completed a 30-yard pass to Isreal Bolton. Bolton fought off a Union Grove defender and made a spectacular catch at the 1-yard line. After running one play to put the ball in the middle of the field, Skalski booted the kick through the uprights as members of the Vikings stormed the field to celebrate.
Northgate trailed 7-0 at the end of the first half, and it was Skalski’s punt inside the 1-yard line that changed field position in favor of the Vikings to set up the team’s game-tying touchdown in the third quarter.
Union Grove nearly got pinned in the back of the end zone for a safety, but picked up just one yard in the series and punted the ball back to the Vikings, which took advantage of good field position.
Northgate took over at the Union Grove 30 and T.J. Womack tied the game on the first of his two second-half touchdown runs.
The Vikings needed just four play to find the end zone. Womack’s 11-yard scamper with 2:53 left in the quarter evened the score at 7-7.
Union Grove managed just two yards of total offense in the third quarter and punted the ball back to the Vikings.
Again, Northgate’s offense operated with plenty of efficiency as it converted two third downs. The biggest came when Rowland hit Bolton on a 30-yard pass with the team facing third and 19. Two plays later, Womack struck again with a 14-yard scoring strike early in the fourth quarter to push the Vikings’ lead to 14-7.
Although Union had trouble getting its offense in gear early in the second half, it took just one play to change things around with its first series of the fourth quarter.
Junior quarterback Jonathan Slade found Bradley Sheets racing down the sidelines, and he converted a 63-yard pass for the game-tying score with 6:10 remaining.
For the first time in the second half, Union Grove held Northgate to just three plays on the next series, forcing the Vikings to punt the ball.
With momentum now on its side, Union Grove picked up a couple of easy first downs during the drive. The biggest play of the night came when Slade hit Caleb Ham on a 40-yard pass. Three plays later, the Wolverines were knocking on the Vikings’ door after moving the ball to the four.
However, Union Grove wasn’t whistled for its first penalty of the game until that series, and the holding call pushed the Wolverines back to the 17.
One play later, the Vikings came up with the interception, and started the game-winning drive at their own 41.
Northgate marched from its own 35 inside the Union Grove 5 to start the game, but a fumble killed its momentum.
Despite his team’s turnover and a missed field goal attempt early in the first half, Walburn never lost faith.
“I really thought we played well in the first half,” he said. “We just had some things that didn’t go our way.
Four different running backs carried the football for the Vikings, with Washington leading the way with 73 yards on 17 carries. His 40-yard touchdown run was called back because of a penalty. T.J. Womack added 68 yards on 15 carries.
Teasley finished the game with 57 yards on 13 carries.
Rowland passed for 110 yards.
With Northgate taking on subregion opponent Whitewater next week, Skalski sees the confidence growing among his teammates.
“We really think we can go all the way,” he said. “The coaches never stopped believing in us.”
NG 0 0 7 10—17
UG 0 7 0 7—14
UG—Trevor Greer 5 run (kick good), 9;41
NG—T.J. Womack 11 run (James Salski kick)
NG— Womack 14 run (Skalski kick), 11:10
UG—Jonathan Slade 63 pass to Bradley Sheets 5:11 (kick good)
NG—Skalski 23 kick, 0:00