PITTSBORO — Sometimes, in football, one team is the bug and the other is the windshield.
Against Lee County, the Northwood High School Chargers were bewildered insects, blindsided by a semi-truck, leaving their mistakes exposed and splattered all over the field. Mother Nature attempted to intervene in the lopsided contest, but not even she could prevent the Chargers from taking a beating.
In a game played over the course of two days due to untimely lightning shooting across the Friday night sky, the Lee County Yellow Jackets ran over, around and past the Northwood Chargers on their way to a dominant, season-opening 62-0 road victory.
When the contest ended beneath the hot sun Saturday afternoon, after the clock ran continuously for the second half, Lee County (1-0) had accumulated 471 yards of total offense to Northwood’s 73.
“They’re a much more athletic team than us right now,” third-year Northwood coach Cullen Homolka said after the loss. “We got to learn from it. We got to move on and we got to get mentally tougher. We got to get physically tougher. We got to start doing things disciplined. You know, all the discipline that we had, that we’ve worked so hard for, it was like it was just forgot about the second the whistle blew.”
The Chargers (0-1) looked far from the team that finished last spring’s regular season with a 6-3 record and won a playoff game. Northwood didn’t register a first down until the end of the second quarter, thanks to a four-yard burst up the gut from senior Dashaun Vines-McSwain. But with time expiring and the Chargers trailing 48-0 by then, it was difficult to build momentum from that small slice of positivity.
Northwood didn’t register its second first down until the final drive of the game off of a five-yard scamper. It drew a cheer from the smattering of Northwood fans enduring the heat Saturday afternoon, but the promising drive fizzled out with a whimper just four plays later.
“We got to get back to our basics,” Homolka said. “Right now, we got guys that are being impatient and they’re jumping to conclusions before the play happens and not trusting the process. And those are the things that we get to work on.”
On the other side of the ball, the Chargers didn’t seem to have an answer for the right arm of Yellow Jackets senior quarterback Will Patterson, or the quick legs and sharp vision of sophomore running back BJ Brown Jr.
Play stopped Friday night around 7:40 p.m. because of the inclement weather, and resumed at 11 a.m. on Saturday. Patterson, Brown and the Yellow Jacket offense were unfazed by the suspension.
By the time the first lightning delay was called Friday night — with 10:29 remaining in the second quarter — Patterson had already torched Northwood’s defense for touchdown strikes of 23 and 50 yards. He threw his first score through the air while facing a bit of pressure, but Lee County’s TJ Johnson leapt into the air and snagged the jump ball in the end zone for the opening score of the game.
In all, Patterson threw for 216 yards and four touchdowns.
Brown notched the second touchdown of the day for Lee County, taking a handoff from Patterson before slicing into end zone untouched. He totaled 112 rushing yards on 13 carries for the Yellow Jackets.
For Northwood, Vines-McSwain and Jalen Paige paced the offense, with the smash-and-dash duo combining for 56 yards of the Chargers’ offense. Northwood did not attempt a pass in the game, sticking to their conservative style amidst the blow-out, but both Will Smith and Carson Fortunes saw action under center.
Of the few positives that Homolka saw in the unbalanced outcome was the effort some of his budding players displayed, and the resiliency shown by a few of his veterans.
“There’s some young kids that showed up with some heart today and some older guys that tried to lead the team,” Homolka said.
Northwood, the reigning co-champs of the Big Eight Conference, will attempt to get back on track in Siler City on Friday, Aug. 27, in a road contest against Jordan-Matthews, who also endured a shutout loss, 45-0, to Southwestern Randolph on Friday.
“The depth chart will change,” Homolka said. “We’re going to evaluate the film. We’re going to figure out who wants to be out there. And those are the guys we’re going to play.”