Northwood scores 10 touchdowns, posts 459 rushing yards in shellacking of Jordan-Matthews

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SILER CITY — There are some tasks that simply feel impossible to complete.

Using a No. 2 pencil to win a home run derby, staying dry in a monsoon using nothing but an umbrella and stopping the Northwood rushing attack when it’s on fire, among others.

While no monsoons or home run derbies were scheduled for last Friday night in Siler City, a football game was — and Northwood’s rushing attack made sure to show up.

The Chargers (1-1) dominated the Jordan-Matthews Jets (0-2) on the road from the opening kickoff on Friday, winning the first matchup between the two schools since 2018 by a commanding score of 72-0.

A week prior, Northwood was shut out by the Lee County Yellow Jackets in its season-opener, 62-0, in a game where the Chargers looked like a shell of themselves after winning part of the Big Eight conference title last spring.

That loss flipped a switch.

“Lee County is Lee County, they’re one of the best teams in the state,” Cullen Homolka, Northwood’s head coach, said after Friday’s win. “I think, in a way, that game last week showed us who we really are and what we need to do to get where we want to be. And I think it woke us up, too, so (J-M Head Coach Ryan Johnson) kind of got an angry Northwood team when we showed up today.”

Nothing showcased Northwood’s anger more than its run game, which powered through J-M’s defensive line with relative ease.

Spin moves, broken tackles, hard runs — all of them were present on the ground for the Chargers throughout the night, namely in the first half.

On the first play of Northwood’s first possession, senior running back Ryan Hilliard took the handoff and proceeded to pound through his offensive line, finding the hole and breaking three tackles — including one with a beautiful spin move that slung the Jets’ defender off of him — en route to a 35-yard run.

That play, one executed with such force and confidence, set the tone for the rest of the game.

The Chargers were going to take the Jets’ lunch money. And there wasn’t anything they could do about it.

Northwood ended up rushing for 459 yards on 32 carries and limited the Jets to just 14 rushing yards in total. The Chargers, on the other hand, had 16 rushes of 10-plus yards, including four of 30-plus yards, and scored five touchdowns on the ground.

Seven players had at least one carry for the Chargers, all of which had more than 8.0 yards per carry, including senior Savon Gattis’ whopping 22.0 yards per carry (4 carries, 88 yards, 1 touchdown), which included his 72-yard scamper in the first quarter that was stopped just short of the goal line.

Northwood’s offense looked so polished, Homolka even decided to pass the ball a few times — a rarity for the Chargers, who didn’t throw a single pass against Lee County — which proved to be successful: each of sophomore quarterback Carson Fortunes’ three throws resulted in touchdowns (two to senior Kirk Haddix, one to senior Jack Spotz).

“Well, I promised the kids pizza if they got 300-plus yards rushing, that’s why I threw it so much,” Homolka said with a laugh. “I have a couple of receivers that I need to show some love to. I don’t throw the ball ever, people are tired of me. I should have gotten (junior quarterback) Will Smith a little bit more involved in the throwing game, but every time he was in, we’d score so fast that I never got to throw it.”

The Chargers’ offense scored on its first possession in just four plays, capped off by a 13-yard touchdown rush from senior running back Jalen Paige. Then, its second possession lasted six plays, traveling 76 yards in a little over two minutes before Smith landed in the end zone on a 1-yard quarterback sneak.

Northwood’s third possession took just three plays before they tacked on another six points — thanks, in part, to Gattis’ 72-yard masterpiece.

Its ability to score quickly became a consistent theme as the Chargers found the end zone on all nine of their possessions, with the longest drive(s) lasting seven plays.

They didn’t punt a single time.

By halftime, the Chargers were ahead, 45-0, after limiting the Jets’ offense to just one first down.

If the rushing attack is Homolka’s bread, then the stonewall defense is his butter.

Jordan-Matthews couldn’t get anything going on the ground thanks to Northwood’s stout defensive line, rushing for just 14 total yards on 20 carries.

The Jets had one first down on the night, which came on a designed run by quarterback Calvin Schwartz that went for seven yards in the first quarter, met with one of the loudest cheers from the home crowd.

Out of the Jets’ 20 rushing attempts, 11 of them either lost yardage or went for no gain.

Northwood continuously put pressure on the Jets’ quarterbacks, locked down the line of scrimmage and rarely let the ball get past their defensive line.

“Our linebackers played pretty well,” Homolka said, “but I think our whole defense played well.”

In the second half, with a running clock having been implemented due to the Chargers’ lead of at least 42 points, Northwood managed to score an additional 27 points to close out the game, including two defensive touchdowns on fumble recoveries on the Jets’ final two possessions.

There are few ways the night could have been more perfect for Northwood.

Sure, there were a couple of costly holding penalties in the first quarter that negated two impressive punt return touchdowns by Paige, but with those drives still resulting in touchdowns, there was very little to be upset about if you were wearing white, gold and black on Friday night.

Scoring their most points in a game since 2013 — a 79-28 win over Cedar Ridge — also causes for celebration.

For the Jets, the hunt for their first win of the season — after an 0-2 start where they’ve been outscored 117-0 — continues this week with a road game against the Providence Grove Patriots (2-0).

The Chargers, on the other hand, continue their campaign with a matchup against the former Big Eight rival Chapel Hill Tigers (1-0) this Friday.

Homolka said that if they can prepare for Chapel Hill the same way they prepared for Jordan-Matthews, Northwood has a great shot at taking down the Tigers at home.

“(We need to work on) probably the entire offense and defense, I’ll pick it away,” Homolka said. “My motto (is) I always feel like you have to treat each game the same, so I’m not going to look at this game any different from Lee County. Every game we’ve got to get better, we’ve got to demand it of ourselves.”

Reporter Victor Hensley can be reached at or on Twitter at @Frezeal33.


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