The Eagles traveled down I-75 to meet the Valdosta Wildcats in Valdosta for the first time since the 1994 playoffs. It was early season showdown between two unbeaten Region 1-AAAAA foes, and entering the game, the Eagles had never won a game in Valdosta against the Wildcats.
After a scoreless first quarter, Northside got on the board first when senior placekicker Devon Pike drilled a 49 yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter. The field goal by Pike made him Northside’s all-time leader in field goals – passing former Eagle standout Sean Mayo. The remainder of the half continued to be a tough defensive struggle as neither team would score again before half. Valdosta actually moved the ball better than Northside but the Eagle defense would stiffen time and time again forcing two long Wildcat field goal attempts – both of which were missed as the teams went into halftime with the Eagles still on top by the slim 3-0 score.
After neither team was able to cross the goal line in the first half, it took all of 12 seconds for the Eagles to do so in the second. Senior Brison Williams caught the second half kickoff at the 4 yard line and proceeded up the visitors’ sideline, juked one last Wildcat defender near midfield before racing untouched for a 96 yard kickoff return touchdown. Pike missed the PAT and the score now stood at 9-0 in favor of the Eagles with 11:48 left in the third quarter. Valdosta answered with another drive deep into Northside territory, but again the Eagle defense stiffened and forced a 4th and 9 from their 26 yard line. However, this time Valdosta chose to go for it instead of trying the field goal and they responded with a 26 yard touchdown pass. The PAT was no good but the TD narrowed the Eagle lead to 9-6 with 6:32 left in the third quarter. The Eagles responded with a good drive of their own down to the Valdosta 3 yard line, but on the last play of the third quarter, Valdosta picked off a tipped ball at the goal line and proceeded to return the interception 100 yards for a touchdown that electrified the large home crowd. This time the PAT was good and the Wildcats had their first lead of the game as the teams swapped ends of the field to begin the final quarter.
The Eagles did not let the now exuberant home crowd distract them as Brison Williams set up Northside in good field position at their own 40 yard line with a 29 yard kickoff return. Six plays later, the Eagles were back on top after a one yard touchdown plunge by junior running back Shaquille O’Neil. The touchdown was set up by a 43 yard scamper by junior quarterback Briar Van Brunt down to the Valdosta six yard line. Pike’s PAT made the score 16-13 in favor of the Eagles with 9:35 left in the game. The Wildcats responded right back with another drive deep into Northside territory, but again the tiring Northside defense bowed its neck to force Valdosta to try a 26 yard field goal with 3:09 left in the game. The Eagles this time blew through the Wildcat line to block the attempt to preserve their lead. However, the rolling blocked kick was touched and fallen on at the Eagle 4 yard line pinning the offense deep in their own territory giving the Wildcats hope for one last chance. The Eagles managed to eke out one first down, but could not manage a second and with judicial use of their timeouts, the Wildcats forced the Eagles to punt from their own 20 yard line with 1:37 left in the game. Pike’s 35 yard punt was fair caught on the Wildcat 45 yard line setting up Valdosta with excellent field position for one last shot to either tie or win the game, but they only had about 90 seconds and no timeouts. The Wildcats marched right down the field using the sidelines to help slow down the clock, but AGAIN the Northside defense stiffened at the last moment to force a Wildcat decision on fourth and four at the Eagle 16 yard line with 7.5 seconds left in the game. After initially keeping the offense on the field, Valdosta sent the field goal unit onto the field to attempt a 33 yard field goal to send the game into overtime. This time the attempt was high and long but just wide right setting off a huge celebration by the large Northside crowd on the visitors’ side of “Death Valley”. The Eagles took a knee to run off the final 3.5 seconds and the Eagles had secured their first ever victory in Valdosta by a score of 16-13 in one of the most exciting, low-scoring contests in recent memory.
Northside returns to the friendly confines of McConnell-Talbert Stadium next Friday night for a region matchup against county rival – the Houston Co. Bears.
Game Highlights (Video)
|Title ||Filesize ||View ||Resolution |
|Highlights ||65.8 MB ||Overhead ||720 x 480 |