The night was muggy, the moon full and the game sloppy.
East Chapel Hill beat Cedar Ridge 10-6 in a turnover-filled, penalty-ridden game Friday night in Chapel Hill, scoring all its points in before halftime and winning the field-position battle that ensued in the second half.
Wildcats quarterback Ben Jones found wide receiver Will Buckley on a 36-yard touchdown pass with eight minutes left in the first quarter, and it seemed that the game might turn into an offensive showcase.
It was anything but.
“We just made too many mistakes on offense, and we had plenty of scoring opportunities,” ECHHS head coach Bill Renner said. “But luckily our defense is really good. We kept making the game in our favor by punting it deep, holding ‘em, punting it deep, holding ‘em. Sometimes that’s what you got to do.”
The Jones-to-Buckley combination was a common one, though, and the receiver seemed poised for a big game.
“We kind of got in a rhythm after halftime,” Buckley said of him and Jones. “We practice, we strive hard to catch every ball.”
Renner said Buckley, who has started on defense for two years, has proved valuable on the other side of the ball.
“He’s really fast, he’s really been a big help to us playing offense,” Renner said of Buckley. “He’s a dynamic player.”
Cedar Ridge couldn’t capitalize on the Wildcats’ stagnant offense, but remained close because of its own defense.
Junior Raekwon Villines, who bobbled a punt in the first quarter that led to a Wildcats field goal, returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown late in the second quarter with ECHHS threatening to score and take a commanding 17-0 lead into halftime.
“I dropped back … and the ball rolls up in the air, and I just took it. I saw daylight,” Villines said. “I had to make (the bobbled punt) up for my team.”
Cedar Ridge coach Chris Casey said Villines’ pick-six was a redemptive.
“We told him, ‘In this kind of game, you’re gonna get beat … but you’re going to have a play in the game where you can make it up,’” Casey said. “We talked to him about it, and he made a big play with that.”
Perhaps the most frustrating moments of the game for ECHHS came in the red zone. Three times the Wildcats drove inside the Red Wolves’ 20-yard line to ultimately gain nothing.
“We controlled the game, but we just didn’t put points on the board to put them away,” Renner said. “(We need to work on) execution on offense.”Air and ground attack
The best coaches will adapt strategies as a game progress. The same goes for a season.
Chapel Hill, with fourth-year quarterback T.J. Johnson running the show, thought in the preseason it might be airing out the ball more in 2012. But in their first three games, the Tigers have found defenses spreading out and trying to prevent big pass plays by Chapel Hill.
So they’ve cranked up the power.
The sight of senior linemen Brian James (245 pounds) and Alex Colson (246) lining up as the up backs in a Power-I formation, leading the way for fleet tailback Darius Allen, make for a big impression. And they had a huge impact in last Friday’s win over 4A Riverside.
"The last week we’ve been working on that so we can be a hard-core running team," Colson said. "We like running it down people’s throats. We’re going to knock people down and de-cleat them all night long."
"De-cleat" for the uninitiated fan translates as "knock them out of their shoes."
Offensive coordinator Ricky Bynum liked the effect.
"Before the season I was thinking we might pass for 2,700 yards," Bynum told the Tigers in last Friday’s post-game huddle. "But we’ll go old school if we have to. We’ll just line up and take it right to them."
Allen ended up with 139 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries.
And Johnson still passed for 141 yards and a touchdown, without an interception. -- W.E. WarnockChargers ground Jets
In Pittsboro last Friday, Northwood came up with one of its grittiest wins in quite some time, getting two big touchdowns in the fourth quarter to come back against archrival Jordan-Matthews for a 29-15 win.
With Jordan Matthews stacked against the run, Northwood (2-1) went to the air for a 14-0 lead in the first half on Adam Leviner’s touchdown passes of 40 yards to Aumad Walker and 36 yards to Brian Harrington.
The Jets stormed back with two touchdowns in the second half – on a 24-yard run by Hunter Causey and a 29-yard pass from Rahman Mateen to Nigel White. Causey bulled into the endzone with a two-point conversion to give the Jets for a 15-14 lead with 11:53 left to play.
Northwood ground out the win with two rushing touchdowns in the final 5:15 of the game. Leviner put the Chargers ahead for good with a 9-yard keeper, followed by a two-point conversion run by Brian Harrington.
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