Trey Walters came up big all season long and again came up big in the loss to Northside on Saturday.
No team wants their season to end, but that was especially the case for McIntosh. The Chiefs went down in battle to the Northside (Warner Robins) Eagles 31-21.
It was a tale of two different programs. Northside is an established power, having now won 10 games for 16 straight seasons, a GHSA record. McIntosh, meanwhile, was playing in their first ever state playoff game riding a new school-record eight win season. The Chiefs played a powerhouse and hung with them blow for blow.
"Our guys fought for 48 minutes. They played like they belonged on the field against a quality opponent," said McIntosh coach Lee Belknap. "I'm very proud of our performance against Northside. Our kids played hard and went toe to toe with them for four quarters."
The final seconds ticked off and I'm sure there weren't many smiles on the McIntosh faces. The hurt and frustration will ease and the players will be able to look back on what they accomplished this year with great pride. The 2013 Chiefs went where no team in school history had gone before. Future teams will measure themselves against this bunch.
"The 2013 season was very enjoyable," Belknap reflected. "We enjoyed the season because the kids maximized their potential, cared about each other, had fun, and gave their best effort every day."
A fantastic senior class will be tough for McIntosh to replace. From star quarterback Andrew Johnson to offensive lineman Travis Bertke to defensive end Jim O'Neil to linebacker Jake Carney to so many seniors in between, the Chiefs are losing a lot of talent. There will be players step up in their place, but this is still a special bunch.
"This will be a tough senior class to say goodbye to. However, we look forward to seeing the men they will become and the trails they will blaze as they continue to 'Win The Day,'" says Belknap. "This class will always remind us that anything is possible when you work hard and believe in what you are doing."
The first quarter belonged to Northside as they made a strong case to protect their home nest. On just the second play of the game, the Eagles forced a fumble and took possession. Two plays later they scored a touchdown for a 7-0 lead. The next McIntosh series ended in a punt. Northside struck again on their second drive, scoring on a 63 yard touchdown run and a 14-0 lead.
The Chiefs could have gotten down. They'd already gone much farther than most of the state ever could have predicted. They didn't. They lifted themselves up off the canvas and fought back. The Chiefs made the second quarter their own, kicked off by a 15 play, 80 yard scoring drive. Victor Nguyen did the honors with a two yard touchdown. Nick Alvey's extra point narrowed the deficit to seven points.
After trading possessions the Chiefs set up for a huge drive. They would drive 55 yards in seven plays to knot up the score. The big gainer was a 23 yard pass from Andrew Johnson to Sean Ingram. Johnson went to the air again for the score, this one a seven yarder to Trey Walters, to tie the score heading into halftime.
McIntosh's offense kept the momentum rolling, scoring on their first drive of the second half on a 10 play, 72 yard possession. Walters was big, hauling in passes of 13 and 10 yards. Duke Kinamon took his turn with catches of 11 and 29. Josh Ange finished it off with a nine yard touchdown from Johnson.
Just like that McIntosh had scored 21 unanswered points to take a seven point lead into the final frame. The Chief defense was lights out for much of the night. After allowing touchdowns on the first two possessions, the defense held Northside scoreless on their next six drives.
Northside's offense woke up with seven minutes left to play. A nine play, 61 yard drive ended with a three yard touchdown and a 21-21 tie. A McIntosh punt gave the Eagles the ball back and they took no time striking again. On the next play they got tricky, throwing a backwards pass to a receiver who then launched the ball downfield for a 75 yard touchdown pass and a 28-21 lead.
McIntosh tried to claw back, but their next drive would end in a quick fumble. A 28 yard field goal iced the game for Northside with just 56 seconds to play.
As he has done for most of his time at McIntosh, Andrew Johnson powered the offense. Johnson was spectacular through the air, completing 24 of 39 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
Trey Walters had a big night out wide with nine catches for 95 yards and a score. Duke Kinamon added four catches for 73 yards. Josh Ange hauled in four for 51 and a score.
Northside was able to shut down a red hot Chief running attack, limiting Victor Nguyen to just 45 yards after he piled up 349 yards rushing and ten touchdowns in the last two games.
Jake Carney led the defense with eight tackles, followed by Josh Espinosa and Patrick Trianna with seven a piece. Trianna also added a sack. Josh Reynolds picked up six tackles.