High School Football
Scrimmage win gets Vikings off to solid start
by Chris Goltermann
On a sheet of paper, scribbled at the bottom of a list of goals for Friday’s scrimmage against Veterans, Northgate head football coach Tommy Walburn had written “compete to the best of your ability and have fun.”
It equally was checked off the list of accomplishments following an effort that saw the Vikings outscore an up-and-coming Veterans program 28-14 on the road in preparation for this Friday’s season opener at home against Shaw (0-1).
“I was excited about the way the team played. We did some good things [Friday] and they’re still things that we have to work on. We’re not there yet.,” Walburn said. “I don’t think people realize the level of competition we played. That’s a good football team.”
Veterans, which is coming off an 8-4 season and a Region 2-AAAA championship — both firsts for the fifth-year program as far as varsity success — returns a dozen starters this fall. The Vikings, who finished 4-6 in 2013, held a 14-7 advantage at halftime before adding two more scores in the final two quarters, capped off by a 70-yard jaunt by sophomore running back Turner Hughes.
“We had a couple of turnovers and our passing game wasn’t quite where we wanted it to be yet,” Walburn said. “We didn’t have a huge number of penalties. We might have had one hold and a delay of game when we were changing up personnel on the field.”
In addition to holding Warhawks quarterback Logan Byrd, a 6-3, 230-pound junior, in check defensively, Walburn may have been most pleased with the blocking efforts of a new-look offensive line.
A group that lost All-Region standout Aaron Carr to graduation among starters excelled in front of a group of running backs also including returners Ton Evans, Kevin Teasley and Jamie Skalski, the latter of which got his first chance to see action on offense following an All-County campaign at linebacker.
Northgate gained close to 200 yards offense by halftime, the majority of which on the ground, while Veterans’ lone score in the first two-quarters came on a short War Hawks drive off a turnover when Byrd outraced the Vikings on a zone read around the end.
“We have a lot of inexperience coming into the season. I’m proud of the way our offensive line blocked,” Walburn said. “From tight-end to tackle, everybody is pretty much guys who are new.”
It came on what hopes to be the hottest Friday night of the year. Walburn’s smartphone read 99-degrees at kickoff in conditions that felt like 107, a recipe ripe for cramping in the first action of the season.
“A couple guys did,” Walburn admitted of cramping issues. “We had a couple guys banged up and we’ll have to keep an eye on them. But I thought we came out of it pretty much healthy.”
Evans, whose athletic 5-8 frame doesn’t provide much body fat, had to leave at one point, but not without providing excitement both on long runs from scrimmage, one on a sweep off the edge, as well as an extended punt return that helped set up Northgate’s first touchdown.
SCHOOLS FACE 0-1 OPPONENTS IN OPENERS: When East Coweta, Newnan and Northgate open respective seasons this Friday, all three will face non-region opponents that lost season openers last week.
Shaw dropped its season opener on Friday, falling 40-21 on the road to Luella, which wa coming off a 5-6 season. The Lions controlled the clock while battling back from early deficits of 7-0 and 14-7, the latter at halftime, to score 12 unanswered points in the third quarter.
The Raiders, who are coming off a 4-6 season in 2013, entered the season with 14 returning starters, seven each on both sides of the ball.
East Coweta, in its first official game under head coach Steve Pardue, take on an Arabia Mountain lineup that fell to Stephenson 41-6.
Newnan travels to Carrollton to take on a Trojans team that fell in its opener to Kell 20-7 as part of the Corky Kell Classic. The loss spoiled Ed Dudley’s head coaching debut.
GAMES OF NOTE
REGION 4-AAAAA: In A-subregion play, McIntosh rallied back to defeat Fayette County 28-25 in an exciting opener for the Chiefs, who were coming off last year’s impressive 8-3 season. Duke Kinnamon, who moved from receiver to starting quarterback, joined running back Josh Ange in carrying the offense.
Ange scored four times for McIntosh, with the duo opening and closing the scoring with touchdown passes, the latter from 21 yards with 7:07 left in the game.
Down 7-0 on a 66-yard strike from Kinnamon to Ange, Fayette rallied back to grab a 25-14 advantage in the final five minutes of the third quarter.
In B-subregion action on Friday, Woodland-Henry defeated North Springs 28-14 while Dutchtown defeated Osborne 21-7. Stockbridge fell 30-21 on the road at Central-Phenix City, Ala.
REGION 3-AAAAAA: While East Coweta and Newnan had Friday off, at least three teams from Region 3-AAAAAA opened respective seasons. Campbell made a successful debut under first-year head coach Ryan Brady with a 48-6 rout of South Atlanta at home.
The Spartans’ largest margin of victory since 2007 came while trying to replace running back Mike Rogers, now at Central Florida. In his first varsity start, quarterback Jawan Nobles threw for 252 yards and four touchdowns and also ran for 60 yards in a rout.
South Cobb, meanwhile, stood toe-to-toe in a shootout with defending Class AAAAA champion Creekside in a 55-41 loss where quarterback Kylil Carter rushed for 255 yards and four touchdowns for the Eagles.
Douglas County also dropped its opener, falling 28-13 to in-county rival New Manchester. The Tigers opened the season following the death of offensive tackle Zyress Oliver during the preseason. Oliver collapsed at home after family members stated that he overhydrated by drinking multiple gallons of water and sports drinks.
In preseason play among 3-AAAAAA schools, Westlake dominated Chapel Hill 54-0 in a scrimmage.