The field is young and modern, but it will be the site of something almost odd on a warm December evening.
Two teams that use the word “spread” more when talking about a pregame meal will meet. Two teams that actually prefer to get together in a huddle before each offensive play.
The old-school smashmouth mentality has worked for both and will be on display Friday when Northside hosts Allatoona at Mercer University Stadium in a GHSA Class AAAAA semifinal.
An overflow crowd is expected for what won’t be a high school version of Oregon and Baylor.
“Nowadays, you look at games on TV, and everybody’s spreading it out and gunning the ball everywhere and all this fancy stuff,” said Northside head coach Kevin Kinsler, a former quarterback with the Eagles. “When it gets right down to it, it’s just old-fashioned football by both of us.”
Northside is 12-1 and Allatoona 13-0.
The teams’ rankings at the end of the regular season in the Georgia Sports Writers Association poll aren’t far apart. Allatoona was No. 2 and Northside No. 5.
The teams have traditions on opposite ends of the spectrum, mainly because Allatoona is in only its seventh season of football.
But the standards and accomplishments are similar.
The Bucs’ only losing seasons were the first two, and they’re 51-10 since then. They are participating in their first semifinal after losing in the quarterfinals twice.
Northside has a loss, 45-37 to Jones County in September. Otherwise, only four of the Eagles’ wins have been by fewer than 18 points.
Allatoona has survived close games against East Paulding (27-21) and Gainesville (24-17), but it also owns six wins by 21 points or more.
Kinsler isn’t overstating the similarities a bit.
Allatoona runs 77 percent of the time, Northside 82.3.
Allatoona has 3,715 yards on 583 carries, Northside 4,299 on 641.
The Bucs get 66.6 percent of their yards by land to 77.7 percent for the Eagles.
Northside’s Willie Jordan has carried the ball 257 times, but he’s almost well-rested compared to the 338 rushes for Allatoona’s Russell Halimon.
Halimon has 2,215 yards and 24 rushing touchdowns to Jordan’s 1,939 and 28. And both offenses will hop on the runner’s back for long drives.
“They have two really good backs,” Kinsler said. “When one of them’s not at running back, he’s out there at wide receiver.”
That’s Joshua Bettistea, who has 17 catches for 286 yards and three touchdowns to go with 813 rushing yards and 13 scores.
Northside has a size advantage up front, but Allatoona is quick and stubborn, getting off blocks well on one side and displaying athleticism on the other.
“The thing that impresses me about their offensive line is they’re not as big, but they’re very mobile,” Kinsler said. “They do a lot of pulling and getting out in front. That’s one thing that makes them effective. They’re very technique sound as well.”
Will Kemp leads the 3-5 defense with 11.7 tackles a game, while Allen Johnson and Juanyea Tarver team for 13.5 sacks.
Sophomore defensive backs Tae Daley and Kam Burnett lead Northside with 81 solos and 45 assists. Burnett and linebacker Tyree Williams each have three sacks.
Daley and Rakwon Young each have four interceptions, and the secondary will be tested by Allatoona quarterback Conner Larson.
The senior has completed 64.1 percent of his passes for 1,864 yards and 20 touchdowns. He’s not the running threat that Tobias Oliver is, the sophomore rushing for 725 yards and nine touchdowns.
Oliver has been superb in running the Eagles’ offense, adding 1,165 yards through the air on a 55-percent completion rate.
Offensive coordinator Chad Alligood said that Oliver was near-perfect in reading the outside veer last week against Glynn Academy, making only two wrong reads on 35 veer calls.
Everything will be under the microscope with a trip to the state championship game on the line.
“It’s going to be an old-fashioned football game,” Kinsler said. “Both teams actually get in the huddle. You better buckle it up, ‘and here we come.’ ”