PITTSBORO — Northwood’s homecoming game in Week 7 against Person High was moved up a day to Thursday because of impending heavy rain and winds brought on by Hurricane Ian.
One might think having 24 hours less to prepare would lead to a sloppy, dull affair, but it was anything but.
Trailing by as many as 16 points in the second half, the Chargers mounted a furious comeback before ultimately falling short to Person, 36-34, at home Thursday night. In a game full of big plays and momentum swings, the Rockets (4-2, 2-0 Conf.) delivered the heaviest blows, including two interceptions returned for touchdowns that proved the ultimate difference.
Northwood head coach Chris Kenan told the News + Record he was proud of his team’s second-half effort, but he also said he still hasn’t seen his team execute over the course of a full game this fall.
“I think this game shows you it’s a tale of two teams,” Kenan said. “The first half, it’s a Northwood you’ve seen before. But the second half, when everyone’s dialed in and committed, that’s Charger football. Unfortunately we haven’t put together a full complete game of Charger football yet.”
Northwood (3-4, 1-2 Conf.) opened the game by scoring first, as junior Ashton Elliott ran for a touchdown to put the Chargers up 7-0, but it would be the last time head coach Chris Kenan’s team scored points for a while.
Person scored the next three touchdowns unanswered, but managed to miss all three extra points, to make it 18-7. With the game in danger of getting out of hand, Northwood senior quarterback Will Smith led the Chargers down the field and scored on a keeper to cut things back to a one-score game at 18-14.
Momentum wouldn’t stay with Northwood long, as Person immediately responded to Smith’s score with a long touchdown pass to make it 24-14. On the Chargers’ next drive, Smith was intercepted by a Rockets defender, who returned it to the end zone to quickly make things 30-16.
Northwood could have let the pick-six deter them from competing late in the game, but the mistake only strengthened the Chargers’ resolve. After scoring a quick touchdown it 30-20, Northwood shaved the deficit to three points, 30-27, after a touchdown by receiver Antoine Brewington.
After forcing a punt on Person’s next drive, Northwood looked poised to take the lead for the first time since the first quarter, but after driving into Rockets’ territory, the Chargers were intercepted again by Person senior Julian Crawley, who returned the ball 99 yards for a touchdown to make it 36-27 in the fourth quarter.
“Turnovers are the nature of the game, but I just have to do a better job of getting our guys prepared,” Kenan said. “I put those on me. I have to do a better job.”
Northwood responded with a scoring drive, capped off by a 15-yard touchdown run by Smith with 5:34 left in the fourth quarter to cut the game to 36-34 — but it would be the final time either team scored Thursday night.
Crawley was the star of the show for Person, scoring twice on interception returns and adding both a rushing and receiving touchdown. Northwood held the Rockets to just 212 yards of total offense, but Person made the most of its opportunities to get revenge on the Chargers after falling to them, 21-7, at home last season.
Now 3-4 overall and 1-2 in conference play, Northwood is in fifth place in 3A East Conference 25 league standings behind Eastern Alamance, Person, Williams and Western Alamance.
The Chargers have a bye week in Week 8. They return to action Oct. 14 on the road at Orange High. Northwood defeated Orange, 34-6, at home last season and 6-8 all-time against the Panthers since 2005.
Kenan says the bye couldn’t come at a better time for the Chargers, who have been decimated by injuries at several key offensive positions. Against Person on Thursday, two Northwood receivers — Elliott and senior Drew Entrekin — had to exit the game early. Kenan told the CN+R that Entrekin’s injury will cause him to miss the rest of the season.
“The bye is valuable to us because there have been so many injuries,” Kenan said. “Hopefully we can get some guys back over the next few weeks and be better prepared for Orange. The injury bug hasn’t been our friend this year.”
Sports Editor Jeremy Vernon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @jbo_vernon.