Jonathan Heeter: Eagles step up in another big game

jheeter@macon.comOctober 16, 2010 

WARNER ROBINS — Thomas County Central played the role that many teams have entering into a hyped game against Northside.

The seventh-ranked Yellow Jackets went to McConnell-Talbert expecting to give the Eagles a fight like many before them have tried during the current patch of prosperity for the Eagles.

Instead, they left town with a 34-14 loss that didn’t even seem as close as the final score indicated. The Eagles never lost control for a second, dominating on the offensive line and scoring on six possessions. They missed two other field goals.

Northside just doesn’t come out flat in big games, and this was just the most recent example. The only time in recent memory that Northside fell flat was against Camden County in last year’s state championship game, although that was more of everything going wrong in a flash for the Eagles in the blowout loss.

Outside of that, Northside finds a way to bring its best game in the biggest moments.

In the past five seasons, the Eagles have played 15 games against ranked teams. They have won 12 of them. Even in the games they lose, the Eagles still find a way to hang tough — for example close road losses to Lowndes and Camden County in 2008.

“We have just built a tradition here, and the guys know everyone will bring their ‘A’ game against us,” Northside head coach Kevin Kinsler said. “We expect that every week.”

This isn’t to say the Eagles don’t ever fall flat to start a game.

Northside (7-0, 4-0 GHSA Region 1-AAAA) didn’t look sharp in the first half of a win over Warner Robins a few weeks back. The Eagles didn’t start out great against Bainbridge earlier in the season.

But when the brightest lights come on like they did Friday night, Northside also seems to bring its best game.

That should be pretty scary for the opposition going forward this season.

Week by week, Northside is getting better. The Eagles haven’t peaked, not even close to it yet.

The offense is evolving, and it really still hasn’t moved much past the vanilla phase, but it might never have to the way it has played. The Eagles aren’t really throwing the ball downfield much, and that could change as the season goes on as its young offensive line is maturing.

The defense is coming together quickl,y as well. The Eagles allowed a few big plays to the Yellow Jackets, but all in all, they held the difficult-to-handle veer offense in check. The biggest question mark heading into the season was the secondary, and it has proven itself thus far. Taz Thomas came up with a crucial interception Friday that set up a touchdown.

Now, Northside doesn’t have another marquee game through the rest of the regular season.

The Eagles do play an improved Houston County team in a rivalry game next week. But a Houston County win over Northside would be a big upset.

It could be a few rounds into the playoffs before the Eagles play another game like they did Friday night at McConnell-Talbert. But whenever that time comes, it’s a certain bet that the Eagles won’t fall flat.

Contact Jonathan Heeter at 744-4401 or jheeter@macon.com

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