Northside heads to bye week off huge win over Ware County
Leaving points on the field is always aggravating, and Northside left points on the field.
But the Eagles did a good job otherwise putting points on the scoreboard and hammered Ware County 48-7 on Friday night at McConnell-Talbert Stadium in a battle of highly ranked non-region opponents.
Northside, No. 2 in Class 6A, improved to 5-0 while Ware County, No. 4 in Class 5A, fell to 2-2.
It didn’t necessarily exorcise the Eagles’ 16-7 loss to the Gators in the first round of last year’s GHSA Class 5A playoffs, but it was a good night for Northside.
The teams were tied midway through the first quarter before the Eagles took the lead on Terrell Bryant’s tough catch in triple coverage of Tobias Oliver’s pass for a 32-yard touchdown at the 5:41 mark of the first quarter.
The Eagles’ defense kept the Gators in check, and Oliver got 13 yards on fourth-and-11 to set up an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jaylan Sandifer and a 21-7 lead with 11 seconds left in the first quarter.
The teams muddled through the second quarter, Northside letting scoring opportunities slip away.
The Eagles scored on their first two trips of the third quarter, on a nine-play, 65-yard drive and then a one-play, 59-yard drive, the latter courtesy of Daniel Neal, to seal it. Oliver’s 54-yarder on the first play of the next drive added icing.
Four who mattered
Oliver: The senior put on a show with 202 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries to go with an efficient 10-for-15 night passing for 96 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Linebackers Kam Burnett and Greg Cofer, and defensive lineman Trashon Owens: It’s almost unfair to single out any defenders on such a huge night for the unit, but that trio led the way for a defense that forced six punts in the first half alone, and three in the second half, that number lowered because of a few longer Northside possessions and a running clock.
Missing points: Northside will grumble about the possibility of heading to the halftime locker room with a huge lead. The Eagles had drives end on the Gators’ 21, 19 and 12, with two missed field goals and an interception. A penalty nullified a touchdown pass before one of the missed field goals.
Punts with benefits: Adding to that aggravation for Northside whiffed on those three possessions courtesy of good starting field position after shanked Ware County punts and a blocked one by Tae Daley.
Tone-setting: That would be Northside’s defense, which recorded 19 negative plays against the Gators and held them to seven total first downs. The Eagles held the Gators to single digits for only the second time since Ware County lost 29-0 to Tucker in the Class 5A title game in 2013.
Wow: Oliver is getting recruited as an athlete, and he certainly showed why with a magnificent effort on the Eagles’ second play. He kept left and was all but swallowed by linebacker Ronnie Adams, but he twisted away and sped to the right and turned the corner. So began the foot race that Oliver won for a 60-yard touchdown. He added a 54-yarder in the third that was quality in its own right — he shed a tackler inside the 15.
The Eagles led 14-7 and faced a fourth-and-11 on the Ware County 23. Oliver gained 13 for a first down, and Northside scored two plays later. Had the Eagles come up short or settled for a field goal — and perhaps missed a field goal, which did happen twice — it might have been enough to spark the Gators into a better night. Instead, that made it 21-7 late in the first quarter.
Early injury: The Gators lost running back Jordon Turner on the first play from scrimmage with a serious leg injury. He was carted off and will undergo surgery Saturday.
They said it
Ware County head coach Franklin Stephens: “When you’re challenged, you’ve got to meet the challenge. You can’t run away from the challenge, you can’t sidestep the challenge. Because the challenge showed up (Friday), in a bad (mood). When you’re on a daily basis you’re not preparing for that challenge, 48-7 happens. And it could’ve been a lot worse.”
Northside’s Burnett on avenging the playoff loss: “Oh, it’s revenge. I’ve been wanting to beat these folks since way back. I’ve been wanting to beat these folks.”
Burnett on handling the Gators’ wing-T: “We should have had a shutout. … When they motioned, our bandit, he (shot) through the gap and made the tackle. … We can be better.”
Stephens on some foreshadowing: “The sad part about it is, I told our group Monday, ‘Guys, if we don’t get our intensity up, if we don’t do things the way we need to do them, then Northside is going to be us and have a running clock.’ ”
Northside head coach Kevin Kinsler on the impact of the performance: “I think Ware County is as good a football team and as good a program as there is in the state. They’re kids that play hard and compete every week. Each and every year, they’ve got a quality football team.”
Kinsler on winning by 41, and it could have been more: “To be able to play well against somebody like that, I think, (is) really a credit to our kids and the way they came out and played (Friday). I think it was just the way we played the entire game, just with a lot of effort. Sometimes we didn’t always do the right thing, but we just had guys giving great effort on both sides of the ball.”
Burnett on the game being Northside’s best defensive night of the season: “(Pause, grin) Yeah, it is, it is, it is. I can’t lie.”
Stephens: “Third and fourth quarter, very self-explanatory what happened. They went to a level we couldn’t get to (Friday).”
Northside hosts Macon County on Sept. 30