A close game in Saturday’s GHSA Class AAAAA championship game between Northside and Camden County could favor the Eagles.
Half of Northside’s 14 games have been decided by 10 points or fewer, and the Eagles have won six of them. By comparison, Camden County is 3-2 in similar games. In this decade, only two other teams (Peachtree Ridge in 2006 and Brookwood in 2002) have played a higher percentage of 10-point games entering the championship game.
There’s no secret to the Eagles’ success.
“You’ve got to play hard for 48 minutes,” cornerback Dontavious Anderson said. “Just keep moving it on until the last play, the last minute until we come out with a big win. However it happens, it happens.”
Said guard Sam Cherney, “Play hard the opening play and just keep going to the last play.”
Close games are decided by a number of factors, not the least of which is good fortune. The Eagles have had that in abundance this season.
Consider the fact that in three-point wins over Valdosta, Lowndes and Peachtree Ridge, Northside benefitted from a total of nine missed field-goal attempts by its opponents. Also, in the seven games decided by 10 points or less, Northside lost the turnover battle every time. Total, the Eagles had nine more giveaways yet still won six times.
Of course, to suggest Northside is lucky to be in the title game would be both unfair and inaccurate. For one thing, the Eagles are winning despite their own turnovers. They’re potentially dominant when they can hang onto the football.
More importantly, the Eagles make plays. They’re prepared to do so — drilled as they are to understand that the next play is the most vital.
“We practice all the time with the intention of going to the next play,” head coach Conrad Nix said. “Play the next play whether the last one was good or not.
“Of course, when it gets close to the end, that’s one less play you’ve got left. When you get near the end it gets more critical.”
For the most part, the Eagles have been making more good plays than bad in the game’s waning moments. Whether it’s a clutch field goal, a late sack or a 66-yard touchdown pass in the game’s final three minutes, Northside players are stepping up.
That philosophy gets tested at times. Safety Brison Williams muffed a punt at a crucial juncture of the Warner Robins game and the Demons rallied to win. But it was Williams who hauled in a long pass in the final minutes against Peachtree Ridge in the quarterfinals.
“Coach always says big-time players step up in big-time moments,” Williams said.
For most of the players on the Northside roster, the moments won’t get any bigger than Saturday night.