October 27, 2012

Friday night football: Northwest Whitfield gains upper hand with win over Raiders

Devin Golden

TUNNEL HILL — For the first time this season, Northwest Whitfield’s running game outshined its passing attack.

On the legs of Chris Tinson, the Bruins ended a two-game skid, saved their season and continued a dominance of an intracounty rival.

Northwest pulled away late Friday at home in a 31-7 victory against Sub-region 7B-4A foe Southeast Whitfield, which entered with a chance to lock up a spot in one of the “play-in games” to the state playoffs.

Tinson, a senior, collected 167 yards on 18 carries and scored twice. After the Raiders (2-6, 2-2) cut the Bruins’ lead to 17-7 with 10 minutes, 37 seconds left in the game, Tinson capped a five-play, 47-yard drive that took just 1:41 off the clock with a 2-yard touchdown run. He scored again from 16 yards out with 7:00 left to all but seal a Northwest (5-3, 2-2) win.

It was the first time Tinson — or any Northwest running back — rushed for more than 100 yards in a game this season.

“I was used to just getting a series (every now and then),” said Tinson, who started the year in a committee with Blake Heard.

“Playing all the time is different.”

This was the Bruins’ 16th consecutive win against the Raiders, who last won in the series back in 1992. Northwest owns a 28-7 series lead, and this outcome is one with major postseason implications. The Raiders now need some help next week — a win against Dalton and a LaFayette upset of Northwest — while the Bruins avoided being eliminated altogether and just need to win against the struggling Ramblers next week to secure the same.

“We’ve just got to regroup and kick the injury bug out of us,” said senior Rhett Harper, who replaced an injured Blake Foster at quarterback after the Raiders’ third possession. “We’ve just got to get our rhythm back and our feet back together.”

Northwest took a 17-0 lead off a 6-yard halfback pass from O’Shea Hill to A.J. Orozco with 6:55 left in the third quarter. After the teams traded punts, Southeast drove 66 yards on seven plays, and Easton Ridley scored on a 9-yard sweep play. The Raiders’ senior running back finished for 125 yards on 20 carries.

Then, Southeast’s Abel Mendiola landed a pooch kick just beyond Northwest’s first line of kick coverage. The ball bounced into Northwest’s Tevin McDaniel’s hands around the 30-yard line. Had the ball bounced the other way, it could’ve been a different game.

“It bounces our way and we’re in it,” Raiders coach Sean Gray said. “I’m proud of our kids. We battled with them, and it’s a hard loss.”

After Northwest took a 7-0 lead on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Silas Ledford to Hill, Southeast executed a fake-punt pass from Harper to Kevin Torres in the second quarter netted 45 yards to Northwest’s 9-yard line.

“We told them they were going to do the fake punt there, and our kids just totally messed it up,” Northwest coach Josh Robinson said. “I have to do a better job coaching that to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

But Abel Mendiola pushed a 26-yard field goal wide right and Southeast remained scoreless. Later in the half, Southeast got inside the Northwest 10-yard line again, but a fourth-down fake field goal pass fell incomplete.

“We got down there to the 9 (yard line) twice early and didn’t come away with anything,” Gray said. “That hurt.”

Cody Ensley’s interception near the goal line almost kept the Raiders within a touchdown at halftime, but a Southeast fumble gave the Bruins the ball at the Raiders’ 42 yard line with 22.9 seconds left. Bryan Villa made a 30-yard field goal to give Northwest a 10-0 halftime lead.

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