Poor protection, penalties poke Chatham Central Bears


BEAR CREEK — Like Sam Cooke crooned on that classic, look for change to come along Chatham Central’s offensive line.

“People got to step up,” Chatham Central head football coach Sherman Howze said after the North Stokes Vikings beat his Bears, 12-0, on Friday night. “That was a winnable game.”

Penalties seemed like the only way the Bears and the Vikings moved the football.

“A lot of penalties that hurt us, both teams,” North Stokes Head Coach Jamie Fortner said after the win.

But North Stokes (2-1) simply managed more production.

With the second quarter fading, North Stokes senior safety Victor Martinez picked off Chatham Central senior quarterback Malachi Moore. The Vikings took over on Chatham Central’s 48-yard line and, from there, North Stokes senior quarterback Elijah Cone handled it, finding a seam and sewing yards until he tied them together in the end zone.

That score gave the Vikings a 6-0 lead on the road at halftime — but Fortner still chewed out his players during the intermission.

“We didn’t move the ball,” Fortner explained. “We worked real hard on offensive line this week, and they practiced hard and they worked hard. We thought we had the problem solved, and we just didn’t move them. I think the trouble with a lot of it was the running backs went outside of their holes some, so we’ve got to kind of cut down on that.”

Fans in the visitors’ stands had the same scouting report, hollering at Martinez, also the team’s running back, to hit the hole when Cone put the ball in his belly.

Well, with all due respect, Howze said, the Bears were getting after it pretty good on defense.

When Chatham Central had the ball, the Vikings turned Moore into a fugitive, forcing him to go on the run all night. If Fortner’s right and North Stokes needs some tweaking on the offensive front, then the Bears are due for an outright overhaul in the trenches, according to Howze.

Moore has a lot of mojo in his legs and used it to extend plays and complete some passes under duress, but the Vikings kept coming in waves.

“Pretty much just straight blitzes,” Chatham Central sophomore center Aidan Holton said. “We just couldn’t hold on to our blocks [Friday night]. We had a lot of blitzing coming through, and nobody would pick them up.”

That has to change, Howze insisted. It will change — this week, he said.

“We’ve got to stay on our blocks,” Howze said. “We’ve got to be able to protect the quarterback. We’ve got to do the necessary stuff to get everything right. Defense kept us in the game. We just couldn’t move the ball the way we wanted to.”

Howze said some of his players on defense may have to play offense in order for Chatham Central (0-2) to get right before their conference games begin. The Bears have the lungs and legs to do it, the coach said.

“We’ve just got to play ironman football,” Howze said. “We’re conditioned enough.”

The Bears host Wheatmore on Friday before their first conference game Sept. 17 on the road against Cummings.

Late in the fourth quarter Friday, Cone, from his quarterback position, coolly sprinted 29 yards to put the game on ice with 1:27 left on the clock.

On the last play of the game, Moore was sprinting, too. But he was scrambling, seemingly running for his life. He got nailed. The horn sounded. The Vikings promptly quit wounding the Bears.

“It’s a growing process, but we’ll get there,” Howze said. “We did some good things. But we have to cut down on the penalties and mistakes.”