DeVoursney led Griffin to 15-14 win against Walburn-coached Troup County in 2002 at Memorial Stadium. The next season, Troup returned the favor 24-16 in LaGrange. The two haven’t met since as Walburn went from coaching Troup County (2001-2005) to Crisp County (2006-2009) before landing at Northgate in 2010.
So DeVoursney knows Griffin (1-0) is in for a fight when it travels Friday night to take on Northgate (0-1) in Newnan.
“They’re good,” DeVoursney said of a Northgate team which fell 9-7 at Heritage-Conyers last week on a late-game field goal in the season opener while Griffin rallied from a 16-7 halftime deficit to win 42-16 at Dutchtown. “When they get everybody healthy, they have a chance to win that region.”
Northgate, which played in Region 3-AAAA with Griffin the last two years, won the Region 3-AAAA championship last year — it’s first in school history — during a season where the two teams were on opposite sides of the subregion and never met in a crossover or week No. 10 state play-in game.
Nonetheless, Northgate (11-1) and Griffin (9-3) both represented the region well each making it to the second round of the Class AAAA state playoffs.
With the new classifications and region assignments this season, the two teams parted ways as Griffin was placed in Region 4-AAAA Div. B and Northgate moved up to Region 4-AAAAA Div. B, and they were left only to lock horns in non-region action Friday.
“We’re a lot like they were last year — battling injuries early,” said Walburn. “Last week we had four offensive starters and a kickoff man that din’t play.”
Included in the mix was a transfer from East Coweta, Michael Willis (broken hand), expected to be the Vikings best running back once he makes his way back into the lineup. He is expected to pick up the slack on an offense that lost nine starters — including a pair of 1,000-yard rushers — to graduation. Another key player, wideout/defensive back Brandon Facyson, who has committed to Virginia Tech, missed last week’s game after twisting his ankle on Tuesday in practice, according to Walburn.
He dressed out for last week’s game but did not not play. He is questionable for this week’s game.
Another lineman is expected to miss this week’s game. He’s still healing after undergoing surgery to insert a plate and pins to repair a broken arm he suffered during camp, according to Walburn.
Walburn, however, isn’t complaining.
“We understood when we scheduled them, this wasn’t going to be easy,” he said of Griffin which Northgate scheduled as one of their five non-region games in effort to simulate region foe Creekside.
DeVoursney said the Vikings first-year starter at quarterback, senior Josh Harrison, does a good job running the offense.
“He can run and he can throw — he’s one of those big Tim Tebow types who can throw it decent and run it real hard,” said DeVoursney. “He’s a big, physical kid.”
While Northgate’s Wing-T offense was short-handed last week, DeVoursney said Northgate’s defense was stout. The Vikings kept Heritage out of the end zone, limiting the Patriots to three field goals.
“They run an 8-man front on defense like we do,” said DeVoursney, noting they have three Division I-caliber players in Facyson at free safety and DeAndre Johnson (Georgia) at defensive end and Sean Spencer (Vanderbilt) at defensive tackle.
As for his own team, DeVoursney would like to see the Bears get out to a better start this week.
“We didn’t have a very good start last week or in the preseason scrimmage (at Newnan three weeks ago),” he said. “It was good to see our kids come back and fight hard for the ball. You’re not (ever) sure what you’re going to see the first game, so that was impressive.”
“It’s going to get a lot tougher this week,” he added. “I think we can be a lot better than we are — we are not where we need to be on offense or defense.”