Streaking Vikings to face Whitewater
by Doug Gorman
When the Northgate Vikings dropped their first two football games to Heritage-Conyers and Griffin to open the season, head coach Tommy Walburn wouldn’t allow his team to go into panic mode.
He knew it was just a matter of time before the Vikings young and inexperienced team starting stringing together some victories.
Now, with half the regular season in the books, Northgate (3-2) is living up to Walburn’s expectations.
Last Friday night, the Vikings put together a dramatic come-from-behind victory as James Skalski kicked the game-winning 23-yard field goal as time expired to give Northgate a 17-14 victory.
“It was really great win for us,” Walburn said. “Some people had Union Grove favorite to win our region, and some had them in the top 10.”
The Vikings trailed 7-0 at the end of the first half, but Walburn never thought his team was out of it.
“I thought we grew up in the second half,” he said. “We went in at halftime, and our coaches did a good job of making some adjustments, and our kids did what we asked them as far as continuing to play hard.”
The win gave Northgate its third victory in a row, setting the stage for Friday’s return home for a Region 4B-AAAAA match-up against 4-1 Whitewater.
“We really came out and played well on defense in the second half, and our kicking game has been good all along,” he said.
Whitewater began its season a week head of Northgate and most other teams in the state and lost to Coffee 20-7.
Since then, the Wildcats haven’t really been challenged, winning four games in a row, and averaging 34.5 points during the winning streak.
In the last four games, the Wildcats have only given up 10 points per contest. The winning streak includes a 32-0 victory over Mundy’s Mill to start the streak.
Heading into Friday’s game against Whitewater’s stingy defense, Northgate will again try and move the football out of the Wing-T.
Running backs Benton Washington, Kevin Teasley and T.J. Womack all have had the bulk of the carries out the backfield for the Vikings this season. Freshman Ton Evans also gives Northgate a fourth weapon at running back.
Evans has shown his ability to break off a couple of long runs for touchdowns during the Vikings’ recent winning streak.
In last week’s come from-behind-win, Womack scored on touchdown runs of 11 and 14 yards.
Although Northgate’s offense thrives on its ability to run the football Tyler Rowland completed six passes, including a 30-yarder late in the game to Isreal Bolton down to the one to set up the field goal.
On defense, the Vikings came up with some big plays too. Armand Upshaw’s interception help set up the game-winner and Ryan Fagerstrom finished with 12 tackles.
“We have really worked on our passing game that last two or three weeks,” Walburn said. “We know in region play and down the line, we are going to have to be able to pass the ball.”
Whitewater has been one of the most successful teams Northgate has faced in the five seasons Walburn has patrolled the sidelines for the Vikings.
“We have had some really good teams in our region, but Whitewater has been the most consistently good team since I have been here,” Walburn said.
Last season, Whitewater finished with a 12-2 record, losing to eventual Class AAAAA champ Gainesville in the second-round of the playoffs.
Offensively for Whitewater, it starts with running backs Colton Clemmons and Christian Wafford.
Senior tight end Matt Ogle (6-3, 220) also provides a tough matchup for defenders in the team’s passing game under junior starting quarterback Jay Ashley (6-0, 180).
The trio has helped the Wildcats generate plenty of offense this year.
Clemmons could also be a threat on the defensive side of the ball. Josh Alexander is also one of the leaders for Whitewater on defense from his cornerback spot.
“Whitewater is really turning into one of our biggest rivalries,” Walburn said.
It will take another balanced offensive attack for the Northgate to knock off the Wildcats and extend its winning streak.
Both teams have basically the same game plan coming into this week’s contest.
They want to try and run the football, but have shown the ability to pass when the situation calls for it.
“They are a little bit like us, when it comes to offense,” Walburn said. “They are going to try and run the football and run the clock. Ball-control could be very important for us.”
Walburn also knows Whitewater rarely beats itself.
“Like all the teams we will face the rest of the season, they are well coached, Walburn said. “They are very disciplined, and they expect to win every game.”