MOULTRIE – It might be tempting to look at Northside-Warner Robins’ 2-3 record and its two recent lopsided losses to Warner Robins and Richmond Hill and surmise that perhaps the Eagles will be easy pickings for Colquitt County.
Tempting, Packers head coach Justin Rogers will say, but not prudent.
Colquitt County will take a 3-0 record to McConnell-Talbert Stadium on Friday to take on the Region 1-6A Eagles who are still smarting from a 52-12 loss at Richmond Hill and a 47-0 thrashing at the hands of crosstown rival Warner Robins the week before.
Those two scores, and the 99 points Northside surrendered in them, are deceiving, says Rogers, who as the head coach at Jones County ran up against the Eagles three times, winning twice.
In last week’s loss, Northside found itself down 21-0 before Richmond Hill snapped the ball a second time.
Northside never recovered from a scoop-and-score and a pick-6 in the opening minute of the game.
It has been a recurring theme for the Eagles, Rogers said.
“They’ve been shooting themselves in the foot,” Rogers said. “Their defense is tough, but the problem is they keep giving up short fields.
“They do a lot of things well offensively. Northside always has speed. They’ll play for pride and they won’t roll over for anybody. I’ve been telling our kids, ‘Look at the film. Don’t look at MaxPreps.’”
The Northside offense is led by junior quarterback Elijah Robinson, who has completed 53-of-121 passes for 687 yards and five touchdowns.
Senior Justin Luke, a 6-fot-2 189-pounder has caught 22 of those passes for 399 yards.
The leading rusher is Jaylen Cephus, a 5-foot-10, 165-pounder who has carried 58 times for 216 yards and three scores.
Cephus scored one of Northside’s two touchdowns against Richmond Hill. Centavious Lowe scored the other on a 22-yard pass reception.
Rogers is well-aware that Northside has an outstanding former long-time college assistant Casey Vogt running the Eagles defense. Vogt was the first assistant Chad Alligood hired when he took over the Northside program earlier this year.
Alligood was an assistant to both Conrad Nix and Kevin Kinsler when they won state championships at Northside.
The Eagles last won a state championship in 2014 under Kinsler when they went 14-1.
Northside’s only loss that season was to a Jones County team coached by Justin Rogers.
In 2018, after the Eagles finished the regular season 5-5, Kinsler led the team to the state championship game, where they fell to Lee County 14-0.
But Northside fell to 3-7 last year and the rest of this year’s schedule appears difficult with Luella, Valdosta, Lee County and Houston County lurking.
There will only be 350 tickets sold to Colquitt County fans for Friday’s game because of social distancing measures in place in Houston County.
Those fans who do go will be in a stadium in which the Packers have not been particularly successful over the years.
Colquitt has played there 11 times since 1991 with only three victories to show for the trips and the effort.
The Packers memorably won over Warner Robins 21-0 in the 1991 state playoffs on the way to the state championship game against LaGrange.
But they did not win again until 2008 when they defeated Houston County 28-14.
The Packers’ only other victory there came in 2018 when they whipped Warner Robins 41-14.
Another factor that does not bode well for Colquitt County: the Packers have only played Northside twice and have lost both times.
In 2008 Colquitt lost 31-7 In Moultrie. The follow year, the Packers came up short 20-17 at McConnell-Talbert Stadium.
The Packers are ranked No. 3 in Class 7A behind top-ranked Grayson and No. 2 Lowndes.