On a night when yardage was at a premium, Northside’s defense and special teams shined as the Eagles pulled out a 16-7 victory over Valdosta at McConnell-Talbert Stadium to start GHSA Region 1-6A competition with a victory.
The Eagles (6-1, 1-0 Region 1-6A) took advantage of a costly personal foul to take a 3-0 lead on a 32-yard Cory Munson field goal to start the second quarter after the two teams combined for just four first downs in the opening quarter. Northside had the ball back again just shy of halftime, but an errant Jadin Daniels pass found Valdosta’s Desmond Johnson along the sideline, and he returned it 28 yards for a score and a 7-3 lead at the break.
Northside got a big break of its own when Wildcats punter Davis Baldwin dropped the snap in the end zone where Maulik Winfield found it to put the Eagles back on top for good.
Valdosta (2-5, 0-1) still trailed 9-7 when it took over at its own 12-yard line with 1:53 to play after a booming 71-yard Munson punt. The Wildcats, who could didn’t get much going offensively, elected to try a halfback pass and Jayce Rogers connected with a wide open Tay Berrien for 57-yards to the Northside 31.
That set up the game’s decisive play as Berrien let quarterback Tate Rodemaker’s pass slip through his fingers and into the air where the Eagles’ Tubby McCall claimed it for a 69-yard interception return for a score to seal the victory. It was Northside’s fourth interception.
Three who mattered
Cory Munson: The Eagles’ place-kicker and punter had a field goal and repeatedly flipped field position in the fourth quarter on line drive punts of 71 and 52 yards that pinned a staggering Valdosta offense deep in its own end.
Zacoby McClain: Valdosta’s middle linebacker was all over the field. The highly recruited senior made three consecutive stops on Northside’s final offensive drive to give the Wildcats a chance at a late comeback.
McCall: The junior defensive back for the Eagles had two interceptions, including the 69-yard interception return for a score at the end of the contest that secured the victory.
Shifting offense: Trying anything to get movement against Northside’s stingy defense, Valdosta rotated three quarterbacks and attempted 12 rushing plays in the fourth quarter alone after keeping it on the ground just twice in the first half.
They said it
Northside head coach Kevin Kinsler on his team pulling out a victory on a night when his offense struggled at times: “I’m just so proud of our kids and the way they battled. I’m so proud of our defense. People can boo all they want to, but as long as our kids keep busting their tails, and putting (wins) on the board I’m proud of them.”
Kinsler on his team’s staunch defensive effort: “They just read their keys, did their job and played hard. We try to keep it simple to allow them to read their keys and run. The kids believe in it, and they’ve bought into it. They knew it was a big ballgame.”
Northside travels to top-ranked Lee County on Friday.