Harrison Kulp’s field goal with 1:03 left in Heritage’s 9-7 victory over Northgate not only secured a season opening win for the Patriots but also sent its sideline into a frenzy, reminiscent more of a late-season game rather than the first.
As well as it should due to the defensive struggle which unfolded at Heritage High, resulting in a field position battle where every mistake swayed the game and momentum.
For Heritage, those momentum swings almost cost it the game, with the Patriots turning it over four times due to the pressure and ferocious tackling of the Vikings.
The Patriots took a 3-0 lead early but quarterback Ryan Sutton succumbed to the Vikings’ pressure and threw an interception into the hands of Brody Lloyd who returned it to the Heritage 25-yard line.
From there, Northgate ran just two plays, the first, an incomplete pass and the second, a touchdown pass from Josh Harrison to Torres Johnson for the go-ahead score with 10.6 seconds left in the first half.
That was mostly all the offense Northgate could muster after having the strong field position handed to it. The Patriots limited Northgate to 114 yards, including 39 on the ground and came up with four sacks, two fumbles and an interception to seal the victory.
“We knew they had a lot of defensive guys returning from a great team last year, and we did too,” Heritage coach Chad Frazier said. “And there were also two fairly new offenses on both teams.”
Heritage’s new offense looked very strong on the first play as Myron Fears, taking on the role of featured back, rumbled for 59 yards on the very first play from scrimmage.
However, the Patriots managed just three points on Kulp’s first field goal, a 22-yarder.
Although Heritage couldn’t come away with seven points on its first drive, at least it was able to put points on the board. The rest of Heritage’s first half wouldn’t have such successful results.
The Patriots marched down to second-and-goal on their next possession, but a hard hit on Obe Fortune resulted in a fumble.
Heritage had two more fumbles in the first 24 minutes, with one coming from Fears at the Northgate 32, and the other from Sutton when his arm was hit scrambling away on third-and-2 from the Northgate 43-yard line.
Heritage finished with four turnovers, all in the first half but was able to overcome them with strong special teams play.
Not only did Kulp connect on three of his four field goals, including a 16-yard kick with 7:39 to go in the third quarter, but Heritage’s punt and return teams did well also.
The Patriots came up with a block from deep in Northgate territory, and got two long kicks from Kulp.
“Special teams did a great job,” Frazier said. “Special teams won the game tonight, the punt block, a great punt, a punt that rolled, kickoffs, the sky kick and all of that.”
The Patriots were able to keep things going on the ground, rushing for 140 yards on 23 carries, as they were working in a new offensive line consisting of a fast side and a strong side. Frazier said he was pleased with some of the line’s work but is eager to see it improve as the season progresses.
“It looked like for the most part, we run blocked pretty decent but our pass protection was horrid,” Frazier said. “For a run dominant team, we don’t work on that as much as we should and it looked like we didn’t work on it all.”
Fears led the running attack with 87 yards on 11 carries and Sutton finished with 44 yards on five completions.
The Patriots have a week to work on reaching the end zone, and maintaining ball security before playing Rockdale on Friday.