WARNER ROBINS -- Josh Chester didn’t play in the 2007 GHSA Class AAAA semifinals.
He was an eighth-grader then who didn’t even live in Houston County.
The Northside senior defensive tackle, however, has heard plenty about the Eagles’ win over Tucker at the Georgia Dome.
“I remember hearing about it back then living in Macon, and people still talk about it all the time here,” Chester said.
That dramatic 31-28 victory over Tucker was the Eagles’ 29th straight win on their way to a second consecutive state championship, but the game meant a lot to both programs.
Northside beat Ware County the next week for the state championship. Tucker’s loss became the catalyst for an impressive run that eventually earned the Tigers their first state championship in 2008. Tucker has gone 49-5 since that defeat.
No. 2 Northside (13-0) will host No. 1 Tucker (13-0) in the Class AAAA semifinals Friday at McConnell-Talbert Stadium.
“You have two great programs and two great teams with a little history playing on Friday night with a lot on the line,” Northside defensive coordinator Kevin Smith said.
The history between the two teams will likely live on forever in the minds of players, coaches and fans from both teams who were at the Georgia Dome that day or watched the game unfold on television.
Northside beat Marist to cap an undefeated season to win the 2006 state championship, and the Eagles entered the 2007 semifinals riding a 28-game winning streak. They managed to get to the semifinals despite losing all-state quarterback Marques Ivory to a broken leg in the penultimate game of the regular season. Backup Joe Scott filled in admirably, and the Eagles’ defense flat out dominated as Northside won its first three playoff games by a combined score of 70-0.
Ivory went through his first full week of practice leading up to the game against Tucker, but then-head coach Conrad Nix decided against starting his senior.
“He’d practiced, but he couldn’t move around,” Nix said. “He was stationary. We wanted to give him some more time to heal, and we thought we’d play it by ear.”
The Eagles had one of their worst defensive performances in the past 20 years in the first half of the game, said Smith, who was the defensive line coach that season.
Tucker rushed for more than 300 yards in the first half, converted a Northside turnover into a touchdown and sprinted out to a 28-7 halftime lead.
Nix inserted Ivory, who hadn’t played in nearly seven weeks, into the lineup to give team a spark. The by-product was more like an explosion.
Ivory tossed three second-half touchdowns and passed for 293 yards as the Eagles tied the game at 28. The senior eventually led the Eagles on one final drive, which ended with Devon Pike’s 22-yard game-winning field goal.
“It was just an incredible team effort,” Nix said. “(Ivory) gave us the spark, but the offensive line started playing great. The receivers made plays. The defense started playing well. Everybody just came together.”
The win was cathartic for members of the Eagles’ coaching staff, who watched their own giant lead evaporate against Lowndes in 1999 at the Georgia Dome.
Tucker beat Marist one year later at the Georgia Dome to win the Class AAAA championship. The Tigers have won 13 games in a season in three of the four years since the loss to Northside. By comparison, the Tigers had just one 13-win season in program history before current head coach Franklin Stephens took over in 2007.
“I didn’t feel bad for Tucker, because we’d gone through the same thing after the Lowndes game,” Smith said. “It was a motivator for us, and it looked like it did the same for them.”
Tucker at Northside
7:30 p.m., Friday