PITTSBORO — After Cedar Ridge marched 69 yards following the opening kickoff to seize the early lead, Northwood’s defense buckled down and limited the Fighting Red Wolves to just 52 net yards the …
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PITTSBORO — After Cedar Ridge marched 69 yards following the opening kickoff to seize the early lead, Northwood’s defense buckled down and limited the Fighting Red Wolves to just 52 net yards the remainder of the contest – including no first downs in the second half – while the Chargers capitalized on the passing of Jack Thompson and the running of Hue Jacobs to carve out a 24-8 victory in the Big Eight 3A Conference opener for both teams on James L. Griffin Field Friday evening in the winners’ annual Hall of Fame game.
Northwood improved to 2-3 for the season, while Cedar Ridge remained winless after five outings. The Chargers have won 13 of their past 14 meetings with the Red Wolves, including the last eight in a row, and now hold a 15-4 all-time advantage in the series that began in 2002.
Thompson completed 16-of-28 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns with a pair of interceptions, whereas Jacobs rambled for 110 yards on 26 carries to spark a Northwood offense that controlled the clock for more than 11 minutes longer than Cedar Ridge while out-gaining the Red Wolves 278-142 in total yardage.
“While Thompson did a good job finding his receivers and Jacobs is a strong downhill runner who is tough to bring down past the line of scrimmage, I thought the two areas we dominated were defense and special teams,” remarked Chargers’ coach Cullen Homolka.
“After Cedar Ridge drove for a score on their first possession,” said Homolka, “our defense settled down and played a great game. Our tackling has improved each week, while we are beginning to understand open-field coverage much better. Field position is everything in football, and our kicker (Aidan Laros) made it happen tonight by keeping Cedar Ridge bottled up deep in its territory with his punts and kickoffs.”
Isaiah McCambry was the Red Wolves’ leading ground gainer with 82 yards on 24 totes, while William Berger connected on four-of-nine aerials for 59 yards.
“After we drove down the field to score on our initial series, Northwood made some changes up front on defense to shut down our attack and we didn’t adjust well,” said Cedar Ridge coach Torrean Hinton. “While we’ve got to do a better job keeping our defense off the field for long stretches, I feel like the effort was there tonight and believe we are making some progress since the beginning of the season.”
Starting from their own 31 after receiving the opening kickoff, the Red Wolves moved the distance to score in eight plays, with McCambry climaxing the drive by sprinting wide right the last 14 yards to the front corner of the end zone prior to Matthew Hinton running in a two-point conversion to put his team up 8-0 with 8:23 to go in the first quarter.
Following an exchange of possessions, the Chargers launched a time-consuming 11-play march from their own 31 to the Cedar Ridge six but were pushed back to the 17 before Laros came on to boom a 34-yard field goal through the uprights to close the gap to 8-3 with 10.6 seconds left in the initial period.
Taking advantage of a partially blocked Red Wolves’ punt that allowed Northwood to gain possession of the pigskin at the Cedar Ridge 25 with 4:41 remaining in the second stanza, the Chargers capped a seven-play scoring drive when Thompson, facing a fourth-and-two situation at the five, raced into the end zone over right tackle prior to Laros booting the point-after to put the victors ahead 10-8 with 1:42 to go until intermission.
However, the Red Wolves appeared to reclaim the lead on the next-to-last play of the half when strong safety K.J. Barnes intercepted a Thompson pass on his own 10 and dashed 90 yards to the goal line only to have the ball brought back to the Northwood 44 as the result of a block in the back penalty, leaving Cedar Ridge trailing by two at the break.
The third quarter turned into a defensive battle with neither team able to mount a sustained drive until the Chargers took advantage of good field position at their own 46 with 2:28 left in the period and went 54 yards in three plays to extend their lead to 17-8.
Thompson culminated the march by completing a toss to Chris Lawson in the right flat before the receiver split three defenders on a 17-yard jaunt to score prior to Laros providing the conversion kick with 1:23 remaining in the stanza.
Northwood then put the final touch on its triumph with 3:09 showing on the clock when Thompson finished off a 10-play, 48-yard scoring drive by connecting with Aaron Ross on a 29-yard touchdown strike in the back right corner of the end zone before Laros added the extra point.
At halftime the Chargers recognized the five 2019 inductees to their Athletics Hall of Fame class (Ronald Brooks, Kathryn Dispennette, Bill Hall, Tobias Palmer and Will Shambley), bringing the current total to 20 individuals plus the 1971 football team.