Chiefs find ways to win

Published 11:28am Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The team I wrote about last week, the Escambia Academy Cougars, was defined this season by a refusal to quit. I’d like to take the opportunity this week to focus on a team across the state line that has a similar mentality, but has shown it in a much different way.

The Northview Chiefs haven’t been a team of second-half heroics. They aren’t a young squad, either.

They are a veteran team that has tended to win their games decidedly and in many ways, early. In several of the Chiefs’ games this season, it was pretty clear who would win the game by the time the teams left the field at halftime.

Even a loss to Gulf Breeze was pretty lopsided, and the result decided early on. The team never quit, but the scoreboard indicated the odds were not good.

However, in all of this, what needs to be remembered is the Chiefs have been a resilient team. They seem to be a team built for a strong run in the upcoming Florida state playoffs.

They’re a team that has had setback after setback and they’ve still come away unscathed. When one player goes down with an injury, another player steps up in his place. When a different player is not allowed to play in a game, his teammates put forth extra effort to fill the void.

During a pre-season game, Neiko Robinson was suspended for unsportsmanlike conduct. Robinson was slated to be one of the team’s best players, so it was a tough blow. However, other players stepped up in his place, most notably Neiko’s brother Neino. Neino Robinson was critical as a defensive back, punt returner and receiver. Brannon Freeman also stepped up and had big games at the wide receiver position.
The Chiefs faced another setback early in the season when starting quarterback Kevin Vaughan suffered a wrist injury that limited his throwing ability. The team relied more heavily on their running tandem of Roderick Woods and LaMikal Kyles and backup quarterback Daulton Tullis filled in admirably.

Vaughan didn’t quit on his team either. He still was stellar with the kicking duties, even when he was unable to throw the ball effectively because of the injury.

Then, the Chiefs had LaMikal Kyles go down with a hamstring injury briefly near the middle of the season. The team nevertheless demolished their opponent, the South Walton Seahawks, 34-7. In that game, the team relied heavily on their passing game due to Kyles’ absence.

As if all the aforementioned obstacles weren’t enough, the team had another setback when Roderick Woods was ruled ineligible. However, the Chiefs once again found other players to fill the role.

On defense, Jeffrey Taylor has come on strong with big tackles. Senior Corry Baggett also had a strong performance in the Chiefs game against Vernon, the first in which Woods did not play at all.

On offense, big running back LaDarius Thomas has become the bruising-style back in the same mold as Woods.

Despite all the setbacks, the Chiefs seem to have only gotten better over the course of the season. That’s probably because injuries heal and players who may not have had as big of an opportunity to play did play and played well.

Now, the team has multiple weapons on offense: two healthy players back in Vaughan and Kyles, three players who have exceeded expectations in Freeman, Thomas and Tullis, and the two playmakers expected to be big contributors, Neiko and Neino Robinson.

The defense is functioning as a unit, having only allowed six points over the last 14 quarters of play.

Special teams play has been spectacular, too. Kevin Vaughan has been a reliable kicker and Neino Robinson has been electric on punt returns, with a few touchdown returns to his name.

Of course the Chiefs weren’t hoping to suffer multiple setbacks, but the team has maintained a positive attitude throughout the season and become stronger as a result. As the playoffs loom, the Chiefs are a dangerous team.

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