Seven teams from Pensacola went to the playoffs with the same goal: to practice on Thanksgiving.
While six squads have fallen by the wayside, most of them agonizingly close, there is one program that is grateful for achieving this goal.
Northview is the last surviving local team.
The Chiefs will take on Chipley in the 1-1R Regional Final at 7:00 pm Friday at Tommy Weaver Memorial Football Stadium.
“I told the guys: “There are a lot of good teams in the house. What you’ve done, you’ve earned, and it’s really special because at this stage it’s not just about being a great team. It’s about your work ethic, your discipline, your leadership,” said Northview head coach Wes Summerford. “I think that’s what makes us special.”
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Each team enters with an 11-0 record, with Northview ranked first in the region and the Tigers second. The two programs traded top spots in the regional RPI rankings during the year, with the Chiefs leading the Chipleys after beating the Bay 41-6 in the final week of the regular season.
“The older people really took over”
Northview reached that level for the first time since 2013 thanks to a 34-26 victory over No. 5 Holmes County in last Friday’s Regional Semi-Finals. Although the effort was enough to move forward, the players and coaches left the field that evening in a dejected state after a sloppy performance.
The Chiefs offense at times struggled to convert fights into points due to penalties and assists. The defense failed to push the Blue Devils back, allowing a touchdown late in the fourth quarter to make a one-scoring game, while the special teams division forfeited a return touchdown early in the game.
However, in order to save their high school careers, the Northview high schoolers have spent the first couple of days of practice this week and have set the tone for the upcoming match.
After four touchdowns against Holmes County, senior quarterback Kaden Odom openly declared his lead on Monday. Senior athlete Luke Bridges took over the role the next day through his performance and intensity, and senior athlete Jamarcus Jefferson, the top scorer in the area, gave a long pep talk at the end of practice.
“I heard some older people call the younger guys and tell them about the situation, their expectations and where we are this week,” Summerford said. “It has been good for us this week. I think our seniors really took over.”
The Chiefs simply can’t afford to repeat the game against the Chipley program, which made it to the state semi-finals last season. Under head coach Marcus Buchanan, a former Milton head coach, the Tigers have shut down five teams and won 10 of 11 games by double figures in 2022, including a 39-20 win over Baker last week.
hard to tame
Faced with a team that outscored their rivals by a 389-95 aggregate lead, Summerford says there is one characteristic that is particularly troubling.
“Their speed is probably the hardest thing, I think. That’s what makes them stand out,” the Chiefs head coach said of the Tigers. “This is the task of the week, we have to figure out how to deal with it.”
Auburn commits Dequivius Sori leads Chipley’s attack. The senior wide receiver had 54 catches for 1,027 yards and 15 touchdowns.
With scheduling a defensive game for Sorey, Hayden Kennedy took advantage of the lighter boxes. The junior runner hit 155 carries for 1,459 yards and 19 points. Meanwhile, senior quarterback Neil Adams completed nearly 65 percent of his passes for 1,745 yards and a 25-3 touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio.
The Tigers’ speed isn’t limited to offense, as the minor team also shares that attribute. The same goes for the midfield core, which Summerford says includes players who are “more like” (defenders)” who come together in football. Senior midfielder Roman Overstreet leads the group with 79 tackles.
This is the level of competition that Northview needs to overcome in order to claim the biggest win since winning the state title ten years ago.
Looking for a milestone
Because chiefs play outside the villager classification, they cannot compete for district titles. With several stops to his credit before taking over as head coach of Northview in 2020, Summerford knows how great it is to see his team lift the county trophy high into the sky.
If the team can get another win, that joy will return. And then some.
“The county seat when I was in West Florida and Tate was huge,” Summerford said. “If you win this district title, you are moving in the right direction. … So now this is our first opportunity to bring home to Northview some equipment and something that will last a very long time in a trophy box. I think just for these kids and where it’s all headed, I think this is going to be a big milestone and it’s definitely the biggest game we’ve played in my tenure.”
Region 1-1R Final
No. 2 Chipley at No. 1 Northview
When: 19:00 Friday
Where: Tommy Weaver Memorial Football Stadium
Rating RPI: Chipley (10.53) – second in the 1-1R region, fifth in the 1R class, 70th overall; Northview (11,538) – 1st in 1-1R, 3rd in 1R, 60th overall.
Key players: Chipley – Dequivius Sori (WR/DB, Sr), Neil Adams (QB, Sr), Roman Overstreet (LB, Sr), Hayden Kennedy (RB, Sr), Tyren Watford (LB, Sr); Northview – Jamarcus Jefferson (RB/LB, Sr), John Michael Ward (OL/DL, Sr), Kaden Odom (QB/CB, Sr), Luke Bridges (RB/SS, Sr), Aidan Broadhead, (VR/DB , older)
Last week’s results: Chipley – victory over Baker with a score of 39-20; Northview – 34-26 win over Holmes County
Last meeting: November 13, 2020 – Northview 32, Chipley 12
Patrick’s prediction (necessarily wrong): Northview 31, Chipley 24
Record predictions Patrick in the regular season: 77-22
Patrick Bernado is a sports reporter for the Pensacola News Journal. He can be reached at (850) 503-3828, tweet @PatBernadeau, or email [email protected]