Northside Football Preview

Published 3:41 pm Friday, August 17, 2018

The Panthers are looking at a rebuilding year in 2018 after losing 18 seniors from last year’s squad to graduation. Compounding the loss of so many players from what was a smaller squad to begin with is the fact that this year’s team has only seven seniors on it. That leaves Northside with a team of young, unproven players that should improve as the season goes on.

With a squad full of players lacking playing experience, Northside will be relying on Johnathan Clark to be a leading force this year. Last year’s leading rusher, the senior will take on more responsibility this year after being moved to quarterback and having the job of organizing the defensive secondary as a safety.

While the Panthers lack many players who’ve played at the varsity level, head coach Keith Boyd feels they have talent and depth at certain positions, such as running back, meaning they don’t lack options. This should greatly benefit the team, because many players will be asked to play on defense as well. Splitting carries among the team’s many running backs will keep them fresh to play defense as well.

Northside will most likely endure some growing pains this year, as cross-county rival Southside is the only other conference rival returning so few starters from the year before. Clark will have to carry the load as his teammates gain experience if the Panthers hope to make a playoff push.



COLORS: Black, white, silver

STADIUM: Bing Mitchell Stadium

CONFERENCE: 1A Coastal Plains

HEAD COACH: Keith Boyd (at Northside and overall: 50-88)

STAFF: Walt Davis (defensive coordinator, QB, ILB), Jay Mason (RB, CB), Ernie Cornelius (OL, OLB), Jason Adams (OL, DL), Chris Bollow (JV head coach).


RETURNING STARTERS: 2 offense, 5 defense

PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB/S Johnathan Clark, DE/WB Zakkai Wilson, OT Samuel Arias, WB/CB Tyshawan Roberson, ILB/FB Clark O’Neal




1,966: The amount of rushing yards produced by last year’s senior class. Northside is returning last year’s leading rusher in Johnathan Clark, but the Panthers will need someone else to step up and replace the contributions made by players like Raydarius Freeman and Matthew Marslender.



Junior Zakkai Wilson played mostly as a defensive end last year, while also getting nine carries for 47 yards. The nephew of former Northside, ECU and NFL player C.J. Wilson will look improve on his 30 tackles from last year, as well as take a larger role in the run game in 2018. At 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, Wilson can use his size and speed to help drive the Panthers’ offense.



  1. With only two starters returning to its offense, Northside may need a couple of weeks to have everything running smoothly on the offensive side of the ball. On top of that, Johnathan Clark, last year’s leading rusher, is moving to quarterback, so he might need time adjusting to the new position and all its responsibilities.
  2. Many of Northside’s weapons on offense will also start on defense. Head coach Keith Boyd and his staff must find a way to effectively rotate their wingbacks and fullbacks in order for them to have enough energy to get stops on defense.
  3. Bitter rival Southside is also going through a rebuilding year in 2018. By the time the Panther and the Seahawks face off in the Anchor Bowl on Oct. 26, both teams might already be eliminated from playoff contention. That would lower the game’s stakes, but make both squads even more desperate for a win, so they can end the season on the positive note of defeating their arch nemesis.




“We’re not extremely fast but we’ve got a little size and we’re strong. So we’re hoping to play some defensive football on the offensive side. Take three yards and be happy. We’re not going to be really flashy but we’re hoping to use our size and strength, and maybe we can outmuscle some people. If we can’t do that, we’re not going to win many,” Northside head coach Keith Boyd.






Northside lost last year’s starter Matthew Marslender and his 590 rushing yards and seven touchdowns to graduation, but the Panthers decided to move last season’s leading rusher, Johnathan Clark, to quarterback. Clark, who ran for 728 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2017, brings more raw athleticism and big-play ability to the table, but lacks experience at the position. Clark won’t be asked to throw the ball often, but his ability to read the defense on option plays will be crucial to the offense’s success. Carter Boyd and Zach Green will serve as backups.



As one of the position groups with the most playing experience, and two of the team’s seven seniors, the offensive line will be key to Northside’s success this year. Senior right tackle Samuel Arias returns from last year’s squad, along with left tackle Matthew Adams and left guard Trent Linton, to lead the line and the team. Joining them in the trenches this year will be junior Austin Cratch at center and senior Parker Alligood at right guard.



Northside graduated five of its six top rushers from last year — including Raydarius Freeman, who had a team-high 10 touchdowns. Last year’s leading rusher, Johnathan Clark has also been moved to the quarterback position, leaving the Panthers with very little experience at the running back spot. Northside will take the running back by committee approach, with Chandler Nimons, Tyshawan Roberson, Zakkai Wilson and Tyler Turner splitting time at wingback, while Kenneth Winfield, Omari Crandell and Fred Taylor will share carries at fullback.



The Panthers don’t throw the ball all that much in their offense. But when they will throw this season, they will move their wingbacks outside to use as receivers. When lined up outside, guys like Tyshawan Roberson, Zakkai Wilson and Tyler Turner, who’re all at least 6-foot-1, can use their height and athleticism to win one-on-one matchups.



The tight end position is another that will be lacking in playing experience in 2018. Gone from last year’s squad are Parker Boyd and Dawson Jackson, who both graduated. Taking their spots will be Carter Boyd and Darius Midgette, who’ll often be on the field together, as Northside likes to use dual tight end formations. Both Boyd and Midgette will be asked to block often in Northside’s run-heavy attack, but can contribute in the passing game as well.



After showing flashes at defensive end as a sophomore making 30 tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss, Zakkai Wilson is looking to make a big impact in 2018 using his length at 6-foot-3 and athleticism. Zach Green will man the other defensive end spot, while Micah Spencer and Jon’malik Freeman will use their mass at 230 pounds and 330 pounds, respectively, to clog up the interior and stuff the run. Parker Alligood will rotate in at defensive tackle as well.



Linebacker is probably the position where Northside was hit hardest, in terms of lost production. Gone are Cameron Cahoon (115 tackles), Patrick Boyd (103) and Raydarius Freeman (52), the team’s leading tacklers from a year ago. Junior Clark O’Neal looks ready to take a bigger role after making 36 tackles and 6 tackles for loss, which was just one behind Cahoon and Boyd for the team lead in that category. Sophomore Fred Taylor and junior Trent Linton will join O’Neal at linebacker after getting little game time last season.



The loss of talent at linebacker, combined with the speed and athleticism Northside has in the secondary caused the Panthers to switch to a 4-2-5 defense with three safeties to get as many playmakers on the field. Tyshawan Roberson and James Gorham will man the cornerback spots, while Kenneth Winfield, Johnathan Clark and Chandler Nimons will line up at safety. Northside’s plan is to utilize the speed of its defensive backs to fly around to make plays and swarm ball carriers



With both the kicker and punter from last year’s team gone, Omari Crandell is taking over both roles for the Panthers. Johnathan Clark will use his playmaking skills as a punt returner to help place the offense in better field position. Kickoff return duties will be shared among Chandler Nimons, Tyshaswan Roberson and James Gorham, who all have the athleticism to make an impact.