After losing senior quarterback Carson Fortunes to injury on the first drive of the game, Northwood came up short against Cummings Friday, 48-29.
Fortunes went down with a leg injury after being tackled on the sideline to end a 26-yard run. Sophomore quarterback Grayson Cox stepped in for the rest of the game, but the offense couldn’t do enough to counter Cummings’ rushing attack led by N.C. State commit Jonathan Paylor.
Cummings’ 48 points was the most scored against the Chargers’ defense this season.
“We won’t make excuses, but when the leader of your program and of your offense gets injured after a long explosive run, we had to rally the guys,” Northwood head coach Mitch Johnson said. “We had to change some game plan type stuff, but we don’t make excuses. We’ve got to get better.”
After Paylor ran 55 yards to the house on Cummings’ first offensive play of the game, the Northwood offense took a while to get going.
Cox’s night started on the rough side as he completed only three of his first 10 passing attempts and faced heavy pressure early on. His receivers also struggled with numerous dropped passes throughout the game that could’ve extended drives and set up scoring opportunities.
“We didn’t execute,” Johnson said. “(Including) a couple of times when we had our hands on the ball to make some catches, and defensively, we just got to tackle better.”
Down just 3-7 in the second quarter, the Chargers’ defense gave up another long touchdown run, this time to Cummings’ quarterback Devin Witherspoon for 76 yards.
Cox responded on the following drive with a 29-yard touchdown pass to junior receiver Isaiah Blair. He threw three more touchdowns in the second half and finished the night with 365 yards and an interception.
Junior tight end and N.C. State commit Gus Ritchey accounted for 160 of those yards and a receiving touchdown himself.
“As a sophomore, I feel like (Cox) has a lot of grit,” Johnson said. “I see a lot of Carson in him, and that’s very good for a future...He got hit a couple of times pretty good and still came back for more. That tells you who he is.”
But as the Chargers’ offense fought tooth and nail to move downfield late in the second quarter, Paylor and Witherspoon continued to pick up steam.
Paylor scored his second touchdown of the game on a nine-yard run to give Cummings a 20-10 lead at the half. Then, Witherspoon ran in another score from three yards in the third quarter, pushing the Cavaliers’ lead to 17.
From that point, Northwood didn’t come within 10 points of tying the game.
Paylor finished the game with 286 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 19 carries. Witherspoon ran for 139 yards and two touchdowns.
With the loss, Northwood is no longer in the race to win the conference, but now the team can focus on getting healthy, finishing strong and gearing up for the state playoffs.
The Chargers will take on Chatham Central Friday at 7:30 p.m. to finish the regular season.
“This next game is our first round of the playoffs,” Johnson said. “We’re really going to challenge our guys to get better this week, get back to the basics, clean some things up and really make sure we know our assignments, alignment (and) technique.”