High School Sports

Northside’s semifinal game to be played at Mercer

Northside’s tour of nearby “home” football facilities will continue Friday when the Eagles turn Mercer University Stadium into their temporary headquarters.

That’s where Northside will welcome Allatoona for their GHSA Class AAAAA semifinal game at 7:30 p.m.

“Given all the circumstances, this is the best scenario for us,” Northside head coach Kevin Kinsler said Sunday afternoon. “We feel good about it.”

Northside won the coin toss Saturday to determine which of the region champs would be at home. Upon returning home from that meeting, Kinsler stopped by McConnell-Talbert Stadium and didn’t see much difference -- or improvement -- since it hosted Houston County and Sequoyah on Nov. 22 in a second-round game.

The turf has been ragged for weeks and digressed after Northside and Houston County played on consecutive nights in the second round. The Bears played in rain, and more wet weather last week didn’t help.

Peach County was a quality host in the quarterfinals as the Eagles cruised to a 31-7 win over Glynn Academy on Friday. The field was welcoming for Northside, which ran 64 times for 454 yards.

As much as that, Kinsler raved about how smooth the week went.

“The people at Peach County had been just fantastic,” Kinsler said. “They did a great job last week. I can’t praise them enough for the way we inconvenienced them, and they were all fantastic about it. And I didn’t want to inconvenience them again.

“And Mercer’s such a great venue.”

Kinsler and school administrators started working with Mercer on Saturday, and the decision was finalized Sunday.

“The central office and Dr. Peavy, they got everything worked out,” Kinsler said of principal Greg Peavy. “They took the burden off of me once we decided which direction we wanted to go. They handled all that stuff so we could focus on other things.”

Those things include trying to get to the championship game for the first time in Kinsler’s five seasons -- this is Northside’s third semifinal in that span -- and fifth time since 2005.

While Peach County did well by Northside, Mercer has plenty of advantages.

The GHSA uses a measurement of 24 inches per seat to determine capacity for playoff sites after the third round, and the minimum for Classes AAAAA and AAAA is 4,000. Peach County qualified under that equation, but not substantially.

Mercer is way past that, with approximately 7,600 permanent stadium bleacher seats, excluding suites and general admission seating on berms in both end zones.

That’s similar to the capacity of McConnell-Talbert Stadium, which throughout the years has had a wide range of estimated capacity much greater than the actual figure. Both Kinsler and Warner Robins head coach Bryan Way say it seats about 7,800 based on the GHSA equation.

Mercer’s setup allows for temporary bleachers to be brought in on both sides, if needed, and almost 2,000 more fans can squeeze in on those berms and still have a quality view of the field.

Parking and traffic were not issues during the Bears’ first two seasons, with announced crowds of 10,000 or more on a regular basis.

Mercer also allows for improved game operations with coaches’ boxes, a video booth and a larger press box.

There are no on-campus sporting events Friday, which opens up more parking within a short walk to the stadium. And Mercer is a few miles closer to McConnell-Talbert than Peach County.

Kinsler knows there is a faction that wants the game at McConnell-Talbert regardless of conditions to retain a home-field advantage and a fraction that would like to return to Peach County after last week’s success.

“Our main objective, as always, is to get ready to play and try to give our kids the best possible chance,” he said.

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