Second-half surge: Northside pulls away from Warner Robins

WARNER ROBINS — Stephon Cross’s 55-yard run early in the third quarter ignited Northside’s offense and the Eagles shook off Warner Robins 28-7 in the 53rd meeting between the programs Friday at McConnell-Talbert Stadium.

“All week, I told the team that Warner Robins was better than (its) record,” Northside head coach Kevin Kinsler said. “It was a typical Northside-Warner Robins game in the first half. In the second half, we regrouped.”

Northside avenged a one-point loss from a year ago. The Eagles have won eight of the past 10 in the series, although Warner Robins still holds a 33-20 lead in the series all time.

Top-ranked Northside (5-0, 2-0 GHSA Region 1-AAAA) scored 28 unanswered points after spotting the Demons the first seven. The teams were tied at 7 at halftime.

“We had them where we wanted them at half,” Warner Robins head coach Bryan Way said. “We wanted to keep it close and then find a way to win it at the end.”

That chance never came. Cross’s sprint came on the second play of the third quarter. Northside then kept the Demons (0-5, 0-2) bottled up on their own half of the field. Warner Robins managed just one first down through its first four possessions of the second half.

Meanwhile, Northside’s offense was beginning to take control. Held to just 80 yards in the first half, the Eagles nearly tripled that amount after intermission. Northside ran for 190 yards in the game; 155 of that came in the second half.

“We said keep driving, keep pounding it out and it’ll wear on them,” said Kinsler, a winner in his first rivalry game as head coach. “I think it started to work out in the second half.”

The Warner Robins defense kept the Eagles off the scoreboard for the rest of the third quarter, but Northside was gaining a big advantage in field position.

Senior quarterback Briar Van Brunt eventually hit Miguel Williams for a 40-yard touchdown pass to give Northside some breathing room at 21-7 early in the fourth quarter.

Harried throughout most of the first half — and sacked twice — Van Brunt recovered and finished 10-of-13 passing for 107 yards and a touchdown. He also ran 18 times for 58 yards.

After a Warner Robins interception, Northside’s senior running back Shaquille O’Neill scored on a 3-yard run to ice the game.

“They’ve got a few more weapons,” Way said.

Warner Robins scored first, taking full advantage of a pair of pass interference penalties against Northside. Both came on end-around passes and the second put Warner Robins just outside the Eagles’ 10-yard line. Senior running back Charles Colbert (13 carries for 61 yards) swept in from 5 yards out two plays later as the Demons took a 7-0 lead with 9:26 remaining in the second quarter.

The Demons’ defense forced a three-and-out on the next Northside possession, but Dillon Mixon’s punt covered 57 yards and rolled dead at the Warner Robins 5. Northside forced a quick punt and return man Steven Nelson brought the ball to the Demons’ 15. Van Brunt scored on a 4-yard run to tie the score with 4:11 left before halftime.