There weren’t many brackets that picked Northside Warner Robins to reach the state championship game. But nobody told the Eagles, who began the playoffs with a 5-5 record.
On Friday night, the Northside defense came up with a game and sparked the team to a 14-7 win over Dacula in the Class AAAAAA semifinal. The victory propels the Eagles in the title game on Dec. 11 against defending champion Lee County.
“It means a lot,” Northside quarterback Jadin Daniels said. “We were struggling, but we did what we had to do to win.”
Northside got a pair of early scores and turned it over to the defense, which kept a prolific Dacula club off the board for 45 minutes. The defense, which didn’t get all of its starters on the field together because of injuries until late in the season, limited Dacula to 20 rushing yards and held 1,000-yard runner Trenton Jones to 6 yards on eight carries.
“Our defense just kept coming together,” Northside coach Kevin Kinsler. “We’ve had some young guys develop and they’ve played great roles for us. For the defense, it was matter of them growing together. They’re playing well right now. I’m proud of how hard they play.”
Northside scored on its second possession, driving 56 yards and scoring on a 1-yard run by Eric Smith.
The Eagles score again thanks to a turnover. Dacula’s Jarrett Jenkins had a pass tipped and Oliver Prater intercepted at the 13. Four plays later Daniels scored on a 4-yard run.
Northside’s Tubby McCall intercepted another pass for the Eagles in the fourth quarter to thwart a Dacula drive. It was McCall’s seven interception of the season; he also had a sack.
The Falcons did manage to score, mostly through the air, and Jenkins punched it in on a 2-yard run. Dacula’s onside kick was recovered by Northside’s Eric Smith and the Eagles were able to earn a first down and run out the clock.
Northside’s Daniels rushed 16 times for 47 yards and Smith carried 13 times for 63 yards. Daniels completed 5 of 7 passes for 50 yards and one interception.
Dacula (11-2) had success throwing the ball in the second half. Jenkins finished the game 17-for-34 with two interceptions for 191 yards. Chris Scott caught six passes for 83 yards.
Northside (9-5) continued its unexpected run. The Eagles started the semifinals as the only remaining team that started the playoffs lower than a No. 2 seed.
“I’m so happy for these kids,” Kinsler said. “It’s all about these kids. They were down and out. They stuck together. They believe in each other and they pulled together. I’m so happy for them. Now they have a chance to win a state championship.”