If anyone looked at the statistics and listened to Northside head coach Kevin Kinsler’s postgame comments, it would be easy to think Westside shocked the Eagles on Friday at the Ed DeFore Sports Complex.
Despite being outgained and drawing the ire of its coach, the second-ranked team in GHSA Class AAAAA managed to take advantage of Westside’s mistakes and create some explosive offensive plays to hold off the ninth-ranked Seminoles (Class AAAA) for a 42-18 win.
“I’m not happy with a lot of things. I take full responsibility,” Kinsler said. “They made a lot of plays, and we had a lot of things we didn’t do well. I’m very thankful for the win; I thank God for the victory. I don’t want to take anything away from Westside. We’ve got some things we need to do better.”
Northside (3-0) scored 21 unanswered points to pull away from the feisty Seminoles, who piled up 424 yards of offense against one of the top defenses in the state.
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When Noah Grayer connected with Shannon Smith on a 28-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-14 in the second quarter, Westside (2-1) trailed by only nine points.
Northside answered with a 70-yard kickoff return by Leortis Bradley, and the Eagles scored three plays later when Charlton Lane caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Glenn Smith. Smith took a particularly hard hit on the pass — he was banged around for most of the night — but connected with Lane on third-and-6.
The Eagles broke the game open on their first two possessions of the second half. They scored on the opening drive of the second half on an 11-yard touchdown run by Curtis Martin and struck again after Westside missed a field goal after getting to the 9-yard line. Northside went 80 yards on three runs, with Donte Bryant capping the drive on a 12-yard touchdown run to give the Eagles a 42-12 lead. The GHSA mandates a running clock if a team leads after three quarters, but that didn’t sway the Seminoles, who kept taking Northside’s shots and responding.
The Seminoles scored on a 1-yard dive by Grayer, who finished with 318 passing yards and a touchdown pass, but they didn’t have enough time to do much else with a running clock. Northside stayed content running the ball up the middle for its two fourth-quarter possessions.
“Our guys never gave up; they kept coming back,” Westside head coach Sheddrick Risper said. “This is one of the best Northside teams I’ve seen. We just made too many mistakes, and you can’t do that against ‘Big Blue.’ ”
The Seminoles did have a few missed opportunities that could have made the score a little more interesting.They fumbled on their opening possession at the Northside 15 following catches of 20 and 39 yards by Shannon Smith, who finished with 10 catches for 207 yards. The Eagles scored five plays later on a 40-yard run by Martin.
“This place was a volcano just waiting to explode, and we missed an opportunity on that first drive,” Risper said.
Westside had some costly penalties, missed a field goal and turned the ball over on downs inside the Northside 20.
“You can’t take anything away from Westside,” Kinsler said. “They have a good team, and they never went away.”
Grayer passed for 225 yards and touchdown, and Smith caught seven passes for 136 yards and a touchdown in the first half. Westside outgained Northside 296-229 in the first half.
Hill rushed for 124 yards to lead Northside, while Martin and Glenn Smith added 92 and 71 yards, respectively.