There have been only four meetings between Northside and Ware County.
All have been in November and December, in the playoffs.
The fifth meeting is fairly early in the season, mid-September, but the atmosphere won’t be much different than what the Gators and Eagles are used to.
“It’s going to feel something like that, because of the intensity,” Northside head coach Kevin Kinsler said. “Just goint to be like it always is. It’s going to be a very competitive, get-after-it kind of football game.”
The top-10 teams meet at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at McConnell-Talbert Stadium, a little more than 10 months after Ware County made its debut at the stadium.
It was a good one, a 16-7 win in the first round of last year’s GHSA Class 5A playoffs. And it won’t take much for fans of both sides to revisit that game in their minds and on message boards.
Northside trailed 10-7 and fumbled with 9:04 left in the game, a fumble that was a close call. Ware County had fourth-and-1 on Northside’s 18 and was stopped on a quarterback sneak.
A second or two after the play stopped, an official on the Ware County side of the field ran to the middle to indicate that the Gators had called time before the play, thus nullifying it.
Kinsler was livid at the time and after the game, saying that Ware County head coach Franklin Stephens called time after the snap and was still given the timeout.
The Gators then added an insurance touchdown with 3:28 left, and Northside lost yards on fourth down at Ware County’s 33 to end it, handing Northside its first two-game losing streak — Houston County topped the Eagles a week earlier — since 1997.
That was then, and this is now, and Friday’s game will be a measuring stick for both teams.
Ware County is 2-1, ranked fourth in Class 5A, and has two more games before beginning Region 2-5A play. The Gators are in a five-team region with only four games.
Northside is 4-0, ranked second in Class 6A, and has one more game before Region 1-6A action begins. The Eagles are also in a five-team region.
Quarterback Jemar Lincoln is back as a pass-run threat and has 237 yards on the ground and 364 yards in the air, accounting for five touchdowns out of the Gators’ wing-T.
Lincoln leads the Gators in rushing yards and attempts, with three others averaging between eight and 12 carries a game and 34 and 64 yards a game.
Ernest Jones, Jamoya Howard, Ronnie Adams and Olajuwone Smith get at least five tackles a game.
The Gators’ loss was 17-10 to Glynn Academy — currently No. 8 in Class 6A — to open the season.
“They look just like they always do,” Kinsler said of the Gators. “They could just as easily be 3-0 instead of 2-1.”
The Eagles’ closest thing to a hiccup was two weeks ago when they dominated Westside but needed a strong fourth quarter to take a 28-14 win.
Running back Desean Dinkins (ankle) is back, and teams with Daniel Neal, Trayvon Willis and quarterback Tobias Oliver to lead Northside to nearly 270 rushing yards game. The Eagles have 18 touchdowns on the ground.
Oliver is off a solid game in a 38-7 win over Lanier, rushing for 61 yards and two touchdowns while going 16-of-22 for 159 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
“We threw the ball very effectively; we were able to mix the run and the pass better than maybe we had the past couple weeks,” Kinsler said of the Lanier win. “Defensively, we were more consistent, played better technique than we did the week before.”
All of which has to be matched, at a minimum, against the Gators.
“It’s going to be one of those 48-minute games,” Kinsler said. “Playing like a two-minute drill for 48 minutes.”