End result matters

Published 9:11 pm Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A lot of talk was given prior to the FHSAA 1A state championship to the difference in overall record between Northview and Trenton. But what some failed to realize was the difference in the two teams’ schedules.

Northview lost to two playoff teams in a higher classification and a third team that finished with an 8-2 record. They led 4A’s Marianna for most of the game before letting the game slip away in overtime 48-42. Several of the team’s coaches admitted it was a game they should have won. The Chiefs played a previously undefeated 5A West Florida team close before losing by a final score of 41-28. Northview kept the game competitive until the closing minutes of the fourth quarter. The Chiefs also lost on the road to 5A’s Gulf Breeze 44-20.

The point I’m getting at is all of Northview’s three losses came to teams from larger schools and more overall players on the team. This gives the opposing team an advantage, such as being able to allow players more rest to keep them fresh, along with other similar advantages.

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Trenton, on the other hand, played two teams in the 3A classification and both teams finished with losing records.

I would argue that head coach Sid Wheatley strategically added such challenging opponents in order to prepare his team for a long playoff run. Granted, they played the exact three teams last season, but they were a little more than a minute away from making the championship last year.

Trenton came into the game having dominated other teams through a running game that racked up yards like a state-of-the-art lawnmower. Northview, having faced an outstanding offense against West Florida and others, gave up yards but made the necessary stops. They limited to Trenton to a more pedestrian rushing total, instead of the team’s usual gaudy totals.

Cedric Stokes was a name many Chiefs fans still remember, but what were the names of the other Trenton players?

Stokes was a one-man show, while Northview played as a team. Neiko Robinson had an interception, Neino Robinson had an interception and LaMikal Banks had an interception. LaMikal Kyles had a rushing touchdown, Brannon Freeman had a rushing touchdown, LaDarius Thomas had a rushing touchdown and Kevin Vaughan had a rushing touchdown. Even Arkelle Elliot and Chad Smith combined for a blocked punt returned for a touchdown. The bottom line is: for all six of Northview’s scores, a different player contributed the score—truly a team effort.

The Chiefs finished the season with an 11-3 record, winning the games that mattered most. The week before the state championship, the team travelled roughly third-and-a-half hours to Liberty County and dominated the Bulldogs. So, adding another three-and-a-half hours to their trip to Orlando left the team undaunted.

In fact, Northview faced multiple setbacks this year, whether through injury or a tough overtime loss. In the end, the coaches did everything possible to prepare the team to make a long run through the playoffs.

Sometimes a loss against a quality opponent is more valuable than a win against a less-than-formidable opponent. Having watched the Chiefs go head-to-head with a difficult opponent that entered the game 9-0, the game indicated how strong a team the Chiefs had become over the course of the season. The fight the team showed during that loss helped prepare them for the fight that lay ahead. The team learned how to win when it mattered most.