Published: Oct 30, 2011 02:00 AM
Modified: Nov 01, 2011 03:00 PM
HILLSBOROUGH - Northwood's trip to Cedar Ridge Friday night presented a number of opportunities for the Chargers: defeat a Carolina 2-A conference rival, avenge a painful 2010 playoff loss and secure a spot in this year's playoffs.
After a hard-fought 22-20 victory, Northwood can check them all off the list.
"It's been a tough year for us record-wise," Chargers coach Bill Hall said. "But these kids want to keep playing."
In a cold, wet battle between run-heavy offenses, little effort was made to generate a passing attack. For Cedar Ridge, that initially appeared to be a perfect plan after running back Philip Chalmers burst through the line of scrimmage on the game's first play for a 61-yard touchdown.
"That's a great way to start the game," Cedar Ridge coach Joe Kilby said. "Great momentum for us, and the boost we needed. Then both teams started to settle down in conditions that weren't great."
Little else would come easily for either team.
Northwood and Cedar Ridge combined for three fumbles, two interceptions (one nullified by penalty) and two personal fouls on the way to a 13-13 halftime score.
A serious injury to Northwood jack-of-all-trades Kevin Williams also changed the game when Williams was knocked unconscious while attempting to cover a Cedar Ridge squib kick.
"The thing that changed our game plan was our best player going out on the second, third play of the game like that," Hall said. "Losing that kid, we could've easily laid down. But we pretty much stayed with the game plan and Kadarus Rone jumped in there, a freshman, and did a heck of a job for us."
Fighting to secure a spot in the state playoffs, Northwood managed to equalize after every Cedar Ridge score -- first with a 34-yard drive fueled by two Cedar Ridge personal fouls, then with a 62-yard screen pass from Pappas to Aumad Walker.
Pappas, in his return to Cedar Ridge after transferring to Northwood over the summer, played a smaller role in less-than-favorable passing conditions.
"We had a game plan about 50-50," Hall said. "I don't know how much we stayed with the game plan, but we talked at halftime about letting the O-line and fullbacks do some work and try to get a rushing touchdown."
The turning point came on the only score of the third quarter, when a high Cedar Ridge punt snap went into the end zone and was illegally kicked. The miscue became a nine-point swing when Rone turned Northwood's ensuing short field into a 6-yard touchdown.
Cedar Ridge scored late to make the score 22-20, with Chalmers striking again on a 5-yard touchdown. But, after a defensive stop in the closing minutes, the Red Wolves couldn't convert a 42-yard field goal attempt, letting Northwood run out the clock.
"The kids knew what was at stake," said Hall. "We knew we had to win to be guaranteed a spot."
Northwood (4-6) hosts Franklinton (9-2) in an NCHSAA first-round game Friday. Carrboro wins again:
Stepping outside of conference play to end its regular season on the road, Carrboro won 27-14 Friday at Providence Grove. It was the Jaguars' third straight win since a string of three losses in mid-season.
Carrboro (7-3) plays an NCHSAA 2-AA playoff game this Friday at South Granville (6-5), which defeated the Jags 17-6 in a conference game Sept. 30 in Creedmoor.
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