Flames get first lead of season, lose game

Flames running back Joe Ellis is chased by a number of South Park defenders on a run near the sidelines in Northgate’s loss to South Park last Friday. A run by Ellis in the third quarter would help set up the Flames’ only scoring drive of the game. Photo by Connie Rankin for The Citizen

Last Friday’s game featured two Century Conference teams in search of their first win of the season when the Northgate Flames played host to the South Park Eagles. Although the Flames turned in their best effort of the season, they were on the losing end of the 13-7 final score.

With all of the games’ points coming in the second half, the Flames had difficulty overcoming four turnovers in the contest and surrendered the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.

“Our kids played hard,” said head coach Mike Pipak. “We overcame a lot during the game. We were close on a couple of plays, we just didn’t get there.”

In the first quarter, South Park appeared headed for the game’s first score as they followed Northgate’s game-opening possession with a drive that consumed 6:02 from the time clock. The Eagles moved from their own 32 in 11 plays, converting two fourth down plays to reach the Flames’ 31.

Northgate bore down defensively on their next series, with a sack coming from Josh Dunn and a big play by defensive back Mike Gettings to break up a fourth down pass to end the drive.

The Flames took over on their own 34 and took advantage of a roughing the passer penalty against the Eagles, followed by a face mask penalty to cross midfield at the South Park 48-yard line. The possession ended, however, when Northgate was intercepted on a third down throw, putting the Eagles back on offense on their own 48.

The Flames overcame an offsides penalty that gave the Eagles a first down. A tackle by Chris Mangel conceded a small gain before Mitch Vacek’s tackle on fourth down gave Northgate the ball back on their own 30-yard line.

The Flames were intercepted again on their next possession, but managed to hold the Eagles to a three-and-out series, followed by a punt that started the Northgate offense from their own 31 with 4:08 remaining in the second quarter.

The Flames moved down the field, mostly handing off to Joe Ellis. However, the big plays in the drive were two third down passes from Joe Barker to Mark Wilson, and one to Josh Schultheis. These produced three first downs and advanced Northgate to the South Park 20 with 16 seconds left on the clock.

The Flames unfortunately came up empty handed. A third down pass was blocked, and Barker’s fourth down pass was intercepted to send the teams to halftime with a scoreless tie.

Northgate started the third quarter fired up on defense, getting a sack from Mangel and a combined sack by Dunn and Ben Barsh to force a punt by South Park on fourth down. The Flames then followed from their own 37-yard line with a four-play drive to produce the game’s first score.

Runs by Ellis and Pat Carr along with a pass from Barker to Jon Girvin, gave the Flames a first down on the Eagles’ 45. Barker ran the option play to the right and went the distance for the touchdown that gave Northgate their first lead of the season. Carr made good on the extra point kick to put the Flames in front 7-0.

The lead didn’t last long. South Park bounced back on the ensuing possession for their first score.

They utilized a 10-play drive that was highlighted by a 37-yard pass reception and ended with a 2-yard TD run followed by the extra point kick to tie the game 7-7 with 2:52 left in the third quarter.

Although Northgate’s next possession started from their own 10-yard line, they were able to move the ball with the help of a roughing the passer penalty and a 41-yard gallop by Carr on the last play of the third quarter to reach the South Park 27. The drive ended with a blocked pass on fourth down that gave the Eagles possession for the drive that produced the go-ahead touchdown.

Starting from their own 30, South Park mixed the run with the pass, ending the nine-play drive with a 14-yard TD run to take the lead. The Eagles missed on the extra point try, but led 13-7 with just under seven minutes left to play.

Barker completed a pass to Wilson on Northgate’s next possession, picking up 31 yards to the South Park 25 before the drive ended with the team’s fourth interception.

The Eagles were able to control the clock, taking a knee on the last two plays to preserve their 13-7 win.

Despite the loss that put the Flames at 0-3, Pipak seemed encouraged by the team’s overall effort, saying, “We’re getting closer. Our kids are working their butts off every single day in practice and every game they play. They don’t quit no matter what happens.”

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