WARNER ROBINS — Northside scored three first-half touchdowns then made it stand up through a late Carver rally for a 21-12 win Friday at McConnell-Talbert Stadium.
“The game was all about momentum,” Carver head coach Dell McGhee said. “Northside had it in the first half, and we couldn’t get it back. In the second half, we were able to do some things.”
Northside running back Shaquille O’Neill ran for 59 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. In between, quarterback Briar Van Brunt threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Stephon Cross as Northside raced to a 21-0 halftime lead.
O’Neill finished with 105 yards rushing on 20 carries, but it was Van Brunt’s keepers that kept the Carver defense off balance and led to two scores. He had 69 yards rushing before he sacrificed a few with a final-second kneel-down as the clock expired.
“He’s a good athlete,” Northside head coach Conrad Nix said of his senior quarterback. “You have to remember, this is only his second start. ... He’s going to make it.”
Van Brunt’s first pass of the second half was intercepted by Carver’s Deion Bonner and led to the Tigers’ first points of the game.
Carver quarterback Devin Burns connected with Artimas Samuel for 20 yards to move the Tigers deeper into Northside territory. Running back Isaiah Crowell got his team close with a 15-yard scamper to inside the Eagles’ 5. Burns eventually scored from the 1, but the extra point try missed
The failed PAT hampered Carver’s comeback efforts later when Crowell scored on a 24-yard run midway through the fourth quarter. Still trailing 21-12 and forced to attempt a two-point conversion, the Tigers were denied on a run attempt that would have pulled them within one score. Instead, Carver (2-1) never got the ball back as the Eagles were able to run out the clock.
“All in all, it was a good game,” Nix said. “(Carver) is a really good football team. They’re talented ... They can score any time, any place.”
Crowell rushed for 102 yards for Carver.
Defense dominated through the first quarter and led to the first score of the game. On Carver’s second possession, Brandon Brown intercepted a pass from Burns at the Carver 30 and returned the ball to the 16. Van Brunt nearly connected with Chris Vickers on an end zone pass, but the ball fell incomplete. On the next play however, Vickers burst up the middle for 14 yards to the Carver 4. Two plays later, O’Neill scored from the 1.
The final play of the first quarter was a strange one. Burns lined up in punt formation from his own 30. He struggled to handle a low snap and looked to scramble. Then he flicked a short pass to a receiver who powered the ball past the first down marker. But Burns was past the original line of scrimmage when he made the pass. Carver was penalized 5 yards and a loss of down and the Eagles took possession deep in Carver territory.
From there, Northside kept the ball in Van Brunt’s hands. He carried four straight times and moved the ball to the Carver 4. But the Eagles (2-0) came up empty when Van Brunt was dropped for a loss. He fumbled from shotgun formation on the next play and Carver recovered.
It wasn’t long before the Eagles had the ball back. Carver failed on a fake punt attempt from inside their own 20. Northside’s Deloise Jackson stopped Carver up-man Jeremiah Pitts a yard short of the first down marker.
Van Brunt again went to work and ran the Eagles to the Carver 5. He then rolled to his right and tossed a pass to Cross for a touchdown. Devin Pike’s extra point gave Northside a 14-0 lead.
Northside took advantage of more good field position after yet another Carver three-and-out. A pass interference penalty gave the Eagles a first-and-10 at the Carver 21. From there, Van Brunt took a shotgun snap and shoveled the ball forward to O’Neill, offset right. Northside’s junior back sprinted up the middle toward the goal line, pulling three Carver defenders the final 5 yards for his second touchdown of the night and a 21-0 Northside lead.
“I was proud they kept fighting,” McGhee said. “I did a poor job of getting them ready for the game, and it showed.”