The Northside High School Gators need to win just one more game to realize their dream of becoming 2A State Football Champions.
To become state champions, the Gators will have to defeat the Taylorsville Tartars in the 2A State Title Game on Saturday at M.M. Roberts Stadium on the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi.
The Gators (14-0) have won 17 consecutive games dating back to last year. During that stretch, Northside has outscored its opponents 682-40. Northside advanced to the state title game by defeating Charleston in a thriller 14-6 last week in Clarksdale to win the North Half Championship.
The Tartars, at 14-1, will be in the state championship game for the third consecutive year. They won the state championship in 2017 by defeating Winona 41-26 but lost last year to Scott Central 21-7. This year, Taylorsville advanced to the state title game by defeating Scott Central 14-6 last week in the South Half Title Game. The Tartars have won six state championships in their history with five state runner-up finishes.
Northside head football coach Tavares Johnson, Sr. said taking on a team like Taylorsville for the title is what football is all about.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Johnson said about playing Taylorsville. “They say in order to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. We took on Charleston twice this year, and we beat them. Now, we’ve got six-time state champion Taylorsville.”
Both teams have been solid in every facet of the game.
Northside has scored 42.3 points per game and given up 2.4 a contest this year, while Taylorsville has scored 36.9 points per game and given up 10.7 a night.
Northside’s top players on offense are senior running back Semaj Daniels (116, carries, 1,398 yards, 21 TDs), senior quarterback Jaterrance Moore (113-of-172, 1,967 yards, 16 TDs, 9 Int.) and senior wide receiver Karltavis Burrage (50 catches, 948 yards, 6 TDs).
On defense for Northside, junior TreShun Johnson, sophomore Cordarrian Hickman, senior Justin Hudson, sophomore Jalen Ward, junior DeAnthony Brown, senior Tyrese Greyer, senior Terrance Shanks, junior Oscar Price, sophomore Terrick Latham and junior Jaylon Johnson have stepped up for the Gators.
One thing that has plagued the Gators over the last two games is turning the ball over. The Gators have turned the ball over eight times in the last two weeks.
Coach Johnson said keeping the turnovers down will be key for both teams.
“Anytime you play a championship ball game, the team that turns it over the most is going to lose,” Johnson said. “We’ve been stressing ball security all week long. We’ve cleaned a bunch of things up in practice. I believe we’re going to have a much better game offensively.”
On offense for Taylorsville, junior Ty Keyes (201-of-291, 3,597 yards, 41 TDs, 7 Ints), junior Tyrese Keyes (45 catches, 844 yards, 12 TDs), senior Jabez Griffith (36 catches, 868 yards, 10 TDs) and junior Jeffery Pittman (154 carries, 1,308 yards, 20 TDs) have been the team’s leaders.
Coach Johnson felt good about his team’s defense and its ability to keep Taylorsville in check.
“The biggest thing we have to do is play Gator football,” Johnson said. “We have to make sure we can contain the quarterback and put pressure on him. We feel like our DBs can match up with their skills players. If we go out and execute our game plan, I think we’ll be fine.”
On defense for Taylorsville, senior Chanton McCray is the team’s leading tackler with 90 total tackles.
Kickoff for Saturday’s showdown is set for 3 p.m.