High School Football
Vikings keep playoff hopes alive with win
by Doug Gorman
The Northgate Vikings kept their state-playoff hopes alive Friday with a dramatic 17-14 victory over Starr's Mill in Region 4B-AAAAA action.
Northgate (4-4 overall, 1-2 Region 4B-AAAAA) can thank its defense for propelling the team to its first subregion victory. Starr's Mill dropped to 3-5 and 1-2.
The Vikings won for the first time since beating Union Grove nearly a month ago.
Christian Gaston and Ryan Fagers t rom each came up with interceptions for the Vikings, and the defensive unit stopped the Panthers three times on fourth-down attempts. With Northgate leading 10-6, Fagerstrom also turned in one of the biggest defensive plays of the game late in the fourth quarter when he sacked Starr's Mill quarterback Kyle Mosley on fourth-and-20 from deep in Northgate territory.
'We knew coming in that Starr's Mill has great tradition,' Fagerstrom said. 'On the sack, the coaches sent in a great play, the D-line got penetration, and I was able to make the play. We had great practices all week. We didn't take this team lightly. It feels great to win.'
The sack helped the Vikings take over deep in Starr's Mill territory and add some insurance with just over a minute to go when T.J. Womack hit a wide open Kevin Teasley in the end zone on perfectly-thrown, 10-yard halfback pass on fourth down.
The touchdown was part of a wild fourth quarter that saw the two teams score 17 points in the final 3:17 of the game.
Even after Womack connected with Teasley for the Vikings' final score, Starr's Mill marched down field and scored its final touchdown with just over a minute left when Mosley hit John Smith on a 44-yard screen pass. Smith also caught the 2-point conversion.
Northgate recovered the onside kick and was able to run out the clock.
'This was an ugly win,' Northgate head coach Tommy Walburn said. 'I told our guys tonight that wins can sometimes be ugly.'
Walburn said was proud of the way the defensive side stepped up.
'Each game takes on a different complexion,' Walburn said. 'It was a definitely a defensive game tonight. We felt like we could have put them away in the first half, we had a fumble on the punt and I made a bone headed decision by not kicking the field goal right before the half.'
Northgate had the ball on the Panthers 2 with just second to go and was stopped on fourth down right before the half.
'I let people talk me into going for it,' he said. 'If we had lost the game, I would have blamed myself. I told the kids at halftime, we should have kicked the field goal.'
When it came time to kick the field goal in the second half, Walburn wasn't about to risk taking points off the board.
James Skalski's 23-yard field goal broke an offensive drought with 3:21 left and gave the Vikings a 10-6 lead.
Northgate struggled on their first three series of the second half and didn't pick up their first first down of the second half until midway through the early in the fourth quarter.
However, after Starr's Mill punted the ball down the to the Vikings one, Northgate generated one of its best drives of the night, marching from the ball down to the Panthers 5 in just 12 plays to set up the kick.
Northgate took a 7-0 lead with 6:54 left in the first quarter on Washington's 30-yard run to cap a 7-play 61-yard drive.
Washington finished with 171 yards on 21 carries, picking up the bulk of his yardage in the first half after gaining 141 yards on 13 carries. Womack finished with 91 yards on 11 carries.
The Vikings set up their only first-half score after stopping the Panthers' opening drive of the game.
Mosley hit Terrence Harper on an 18-yard pass to open the game and after the Panthers moved into Vikings' territory, Northgate came up with backto- back stops, including one on fourth down to end Starr's Mill drive at the 39.
'That was really big for us,' Fagerstrom said. 'It gave us the momentum.'
Fagerstrom's also intercepted a Mosley pass midway through the fourth quarter The Panthers set up their first touchdown of the game after recovering a muffed punt by Northgate at the Vikings 25. Starr's Mill took advantage of the short field, and Smith scored on a 2-yard run. A missed extra point allowed the Vikings to keep the 7-6 lead late in the first quarter.
Northgate travels to McIntosh for a subregion game next week .
VIKINGS 17, PANTHERS 14
Starr's Mill 6 0 0 8-14 Northgate 7 0 0 10-17 First Quarter NG-Benton Washington 30 run (James Skalski kick), 6:54 SM-John Smith 3 run (kick failed), 1:41 Fourth Quarter NG-James Skalski 23 field goal. 3:27 NG-T.J. Womack 10 pass to Kevin Teasley (Skalski kick) 2:10 SM-Kyle Mosley 44 pass to Smith (Smith two-point conversion), 1:10