Football Playoff Preview: Coach Q&A’s to get ready for the postseason

Two Chatham County teams will compete in their respective classifications.


The NCHSAA finalized football state playoff brackets Saturday, and two Chatham County teams will compete for the first time since 2021.

On the East side of the 1A bracket, No. 27 Chatham Central will go right back to No. 6 North Moore where the Bears finished their regular season with a 42-8 loss to the Mustangs. That game will kick off at 7 p.m.

In the same region for the 2A bracket, No. 23 Northwood will travel to No. 10 Louisburg for a 7:30 kickoff time.

The Chatham News and Record spoke with Mitch Johnson, head coach of the Chargers, and Derrin Little, head coach of the Bears, about their teams’ hopes and expectations for the first round.

Mitch Johnson

What’s your team’s mindset going into Friday’s game against Louisburg?

Our mindset is to go out there and show everybody what Northwood football is about and what it's going to be about for as long as we can talk about it. The guys were excited to have a bye week. It was nice for them to get a little bit of a break. We played ten straight weeks. I think they're chomping at the bit, and they're ready to go. We should be 100% healthy for the first time. I can't tell you since when, so that that's been nice. And so, we're looking forward to the challenge because it's the playoffs. It's a different season.

How is Carson Fortunes approaching the first round, considering he’s a senior leading your team at the quarterback position and will be healthy going into the game?

Carson is a guy that when he has a chip on his shoulder, I don't want to have to go against him. I really think that the team rallies around him really well. And, I think that he's chomping at the bit to get back out there because you know for him, I think about it is as a senior in his first full season as a quarterback. He's had an amazing season and then in Cummings, he has a 40-yard run and he's hurt and doesn't to play for the next two games. He had a lot of energy last week at practice, so we're excited to get him back. We're excited to get (Antoine Brewington) back, and then, while they were absent, we were able to build some depth and got to see some other guys perform.

Any new looks or new plays on offense that you guys are installing for this week?

No. We're going to just keep doing what we're doing. Every game, every practice, our goal is to get 1% better at what we do and at what Northwood does.

What’s the biggest weakness you’ve seen from Louisburg that you’ll try to exploit on Friday?

I don't see a lot of weaknesses. Honestly, they're a very good team. They're coached up well. I think we're going to have a battle on our hands. I think that the biggest thing is that we’ve got to take advantage of our strengths and really hide our weaknesses.

Derrin Little

How did your team react to making the playoffs and how are they approaching the first round?

I think for the most part it was kind of a shock at first, but for a lot of the boys, they're kind of ready for it and they kind of want it. Early in that game and we showed that if we can execute, we really could play with them and we actually did play very well with them those first two quarters. I think we went in at halftime and it was 21-8 and we had another chance to put up points right before the half and we just couldn't execute on it. And I think that for the most part, they're pretty excited to get their lick back, so to speak.

What did you learn from last week’s game that you’ll try take advantage of for this time around?

I learned a little bit more about myself than I did more so about the team and North Moore themselves. There were a couple of points in the game where I think my pride kind of got into the way and wanting us to be a team who you know can run the football at times. I think I kind of leaned too heavily and tried to force that in a couple of spots. Whereas we noticed that we saw the different holes in their defense as far as in the pass game, and I just did not trust it as much as I should have. This week we're going to really make those guys cover the entire field and really try to highlight what we do best, and what we do best is pass the football.

Is there anything different that your defense is doing this week to prepare for North Moore’s run-heavy offense?

there's nothing schematically that we're going to do different. We're going to put a couple of different people in a couple of different places. For the most part, I think our guys were able to notice and see that although it is a different style of offense, there's really nothing special to it. I think this time now that they know and they've seen it, they're more so mentally prepared than they were the last time.

Any new looks or new plays on offense that you guys are installing for this week?

This week we're more so worried about us, and we're going to go back and we're going to pull out some of those old looks that you haven't seen. I really don't believe in just adding something new, especially not at this point in the year, but I think that there's a lot of different ways that we can tweak our formations and tweak our tags to make a lot of stuff that's old look like it's new.