CARRBORO — Trai Sharp, Carrboro’s standout running back, dented the Northwood defense for 43 yards on his first three snaps Friday night.
Then, for the rest of the half, he sat glumly on the sideline, tending to his knee watching as the Chargers outstripped a far less potent Carrboro offense. Northwood went on to win 41-19, redeeming a loss at home to the Jaguars last season.
Sharp remained in the locker room when the teams returned to the field after halftime.
Northwood coach Bill Hall said that while he didn’t like to see a player of Sharp’s caliber injured, his absence gave the Chargers a boost.
“Trai's a difference maker,” Hall said. “I'm not sure how many of our guys noticed, but it gave us a little bit of a lift and we started playing better ball. But Trai's an All-State caliber athlete.”
Carrboro’s defense did well to stymie Northwood’s running game, but Charger quarterback Ti Pinnix put up 170 yards of aerial offense during the first half. That included three touchdown passes, two of which were caught by Jalen Smith. Pinnix finished with 285 yards on 36-of-52 passing.
Marlin Johnson and Kendrick Edwards did what they could to fill the void left by Sharp, but the Jaguars seemed to otherwise lack their usual luster on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Jonah Mendys never seemed comfortable in the pocket, and Pinnix had no trouble finding open receivers in the flat.
"When a guy goes down, there are opportunities for other guys to step up," Carrboro coach Jason Tudryn said. "And some of our younger guys stepped up in the passing game and made some nice plays."
Johnson caught both of Carrboro’s first-half touchdowns. The first, a 28-yard slant pass, gave the Jaguars a 7-0 lead. Johnson caught another 24-yard heave over his shoulder for his team’s second score, but the ensuing point-after attempt was blocked.
But even with a healthy Sharp, it was hard to imagine Carrboro could have matched the efficiency and relentlessness of the Charger offense in the second half. Northwood’s up-tempo offensive style seemed to wear on the Jaguars, and with a majority of Carrboro starters playing on both sides of the ball, its offense too became sluggish as the game wore on.
It took just more than two minutes for Northwood to put another touchdown on the board in the third quarter, from Pinnix to the bulldozing Kadarus Rone. Pinnix then hit Smith a third time toward the end of the third period, extending the Charger lead to 34-13.
Carrboro's Johnson responded with an explosive 37-yard touchdown on the next drive, but another blocked point-after attempt signaled the futility of his heroics.
With five minutes remaining, Rone put the finishing touch — an eight-yard touchdown run — on what was perhaps Northwood's most complete victory of the season.
Rone ended up as the game’s leading rusher, getting 83 yards on 11 carries.
"I just told [the team] we've got to keep getting better," Hall said. "It's a convincing win, a statement win, but Orange [next week] is a whole other level, and we've got to keep getting better.”
In other games Friday night, Orange coach Pat Moser led his Panthers against his old team and came away with a 35-0 shutout of Graham in a game played in Auman Stadium. Moser played high school ball at Graham and, as a coach, led the Red Devils to the 1A state championship in 2000 after a runnerup finish in 1999.
Orange improved to 4-0 with Friday’s win, while Graham fell to 0-4.
In Durham, Cedar Ridge lost its fourth straight, falling 38-31 to 4A Riverside.