Northview headed to state title game

Published 11:37 pm Friday, November 30, 2012

NHS running back La'Mikal Kyles is a big reason why the Chiefs are headed to the FHSAA state championship next week in Orlando.

Northview head coach Sid Wheatley had just talked earlier in the week about Brannon Freeman not only being able to create big plays, but also being an important contributor to the team as a solid punter.

On Friday night, the team didn’t have to put Freeman’s punting abilities to the test very often, but they were definitely happy to have his play-making abilities. Freeman had three rushing touchdowns as Northview defeated Liberty County on the road, 48-14 — securing a spot in next week’s state championship game.

“We’ve definitely got an advantage, or we’ve created an advantage throughout the season with our special teams,” Wheatley said. “When you’ve got playmakers like our two Robinson brothers — Neiko and Neino — and you’ve got LaMikal Kyles and some other kids, Brannon Freeman, and all those guys are able to create big plays for us. Then with Kevin coming on and hitting all his extra points, you never know when a football game can be decided by one point. It may be that extra point, short field goal that gets you a win. I thought Brannon Freeman for the most part as our punter has done a solid job all year. He had a tough snap the other night and kind of had to run around and just get it off, but he’s been solid for us, too.”

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The team now advances to the Florida high school football state championship in Class 1A for the first time in school history, where they will face an undefeated Trenton team. Trenton beat Newberry 36-35 after scoring a two-point conversion in overtime.

Wheatley had stressed how important turnover and protecting the ball would be, and his team did well in that regard. They recovered a fumbled kickoff by Liberty County and Neiko Robinson came up with an interception.

“We knew that was a big key, especially after last week,” Wheatley said. “We were able to hang on to the football and force some turnovers.”

Freeman finished the night with 139 yards rushing and three rushing touchdowns.

“He’s really a great all-purpose player for us,” Wheatley said. “He runs the ball well. He catches the ball well. He’s also really tough. He took a couple of tough licks tonight.”

LaMikal Kyles also had a strong night on the ground, finishing with 122 yards rushing and two rushing touchdowns. LaDarius Thomas also had a rushing touchdown.

Quarterback Kevin Vaughan finished with 106 yards passing and a passing touchdown to Neiko Robinson.

Robinson was tied for the lead on defense with eight tackles, while also contributing an interception. Chad Smith also had eight tackles. Corry Baggett wound up with one sack, five tackles, and two tackles for a loss.

“It was just an awesome night,” Wheatley said. “We’ve been so close before. They played their hearts out.”

Northview will play in the Florida high school football state championship Friday in Orlando with kickoff scheduled for 6:07 p.m.