WORTH THE WAIT: Chatham Central earns 1st win of season with comeback at Jordan-Matthews

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SILER CITY — When Chatham Central defeated Jordan-Matthews last season, it was the Bears’ first win over their arch-rival in 59 years.

The historic victory snapped a near six-decade-long drought and appeared to end a curse that loomed over Chatham Central. Yet, the win didn’t quite eliminate every daunting streak Jordan-Matthews boasted over the boys from Bear Creek, N.C.

Left for Chatham Central was another feat it hadn’t done in the 21st century — knock off Jordan-Matthews on the Jets’ home turf. But after the rivalry tilt was postponed from Friday to Monday night, the Bears powered their way to another program-defining win, defeating the Jets 18-6.

“This is the first win at J-M in who knows how long,” senior quarterback Hasten Paige said. “Any win against J-M is big no matter what sport it is. This win is a once-in-a-lifetime feeling.”

However, before any signs of the Bears’ triumph could take hold at Phil E. Senter Stadium, the Jets’ offense came out firing. On an early 3-and-10, Jordan-Matthews went deep into its playbook, reeling out a hook-and-ladder play to pick up the first down. 

The Jets (0-6, 0-2 Conf.) used more trickeration later in the same drive, as a double-pass play was called on a fourth and long. But a Bears defender reached up a paw and batted down the initial pass — seemingly ending Jordan-Matthews’ first drive. 

With most of the Chatham Central (1-4, 1-0 Conf.) defense jogging to the sideline, Jordan-Matthews junior wide receiver Gabriel Brewer scooped up the ball and raced down the field. The deflected ball by the Bears came on a backwards pass, making it a live fumble, so when Brewer trotted into the end zone untouched, the Jets took a six-point lead. 

Despite the early confusion, Central head coach Sherman Howze knew the Bears would respond.

“My kids, they take (playing Jordan-Matthews) personally,” he said. “We’re going through health situations and through a number shortage — we’re 25 kids deep. But these guys fight and claw.”

Howze would have to wait until the second quarter for the Bears to answer their early deficit, as costly penalties stalled Chatham Central’s first two drives. 

Late in the first half, Paige found senior wide receiver Brandon Toomer on a post route to set up Chatham Central with a 1st-and-goal opportunity. One play later, junior running back Devonte Johnson darted into the end zone to tie the game.

The score cast a spell of silence across the Jet faithful following and delivered a clear message to those in attendance — Chatham Central came to play. 

“Today I looked them in the eyes and I knew they were ready,” Howze said. “They were ready Friday, and they were ready today.”

Out of the halftime break, Chatham Central continued to find success on the ground.

Johnson’s 41-yard scamper on the Bears’ first drive of the second half paved the way for another touchdown by Chatham Central. This time, rather than handing the ball off to the Bears’ lead back, junior running back Omar Brower rumbled his way in for a touchdown.

But Chatham Central’s offensive push was just getting started. 

A Jordan-Matthews fumble on the ensuing possession gave the Bears prime field position. Moments later, Chatham Central found the end zone again, as Paige connected with Toomer for a 15-yard passing touchdown.

In just under five minutes of game time, the Bears flipped their six-point hole into a two-score lead. The sizeable advantage proved to be the difference, as Chatham Central’s persistent ground attack — including Johnson’s 131 rushing yards — helped the Bears secure their first conference win. 

And as the boys in red and white gathered around their head coach for the night’s final message, Howze’s focus wasn’t on the past or the streak that everyone knew had been broken. Rather, it highlighted the magic number of five. If Chatham Central can reel off five straight victories, the Bears will have a shot at a conference championship. 

“The biggest push we needed was this game,” Johnson said. “ I feel like (this win) will motivate us to get more.”

Up next

Chatham Central returns home Friday to face Seaforth, which lost to Graham, 20-12, in Week 6. 

Jordan-Matthews, meanwhile, will try to earn its first victory Thursday night at home against North Moore. The Jets’ forfeited last year’s contest against the Mustangs but came into the 2021 meeting having won seven straight over North Moore.

The game takes place Thursday because of the threat of inclement weather in the area Friday.

football, Chatham Central, Jordan-Matthews, Bears, Jets, nchsaa, sherman howze, brandon toomer, devonte johnson, hasten paige, omar brower

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