The “haves” and the “have nots” of North Carolina’s Big-8 Conference began to separate themselves just one week into league play, with Orange, Cardinal Gibbons and Chapel Hill all winning last week.
And, even in defeat, Northwood looked good, said Orange coach Pat Moser after his Panthers took a 41-21 win at Charger Stadium.
“This conference has really good teams, top to bottom,” Moser said. “I think the teams at the top – Southern Durham, Cardinal Gibbons, Northwood, and yes I think you have to put Orange in that group – all will be state contenders.”
“If there’s a better team in this conference than Orange, then they must be pretty dog-gone good,” Northwood’s Bill Hall said. “I know Southern Durham, Cardinal Gibbons and Chapel Hill are all tough, too. Top to bottom, this is a tough conference.”
In other Carolina-8 games Friday, Cardinal Gibbons (4-1) crushed Cedar Ridge (0-5) by a 56-28 score, Chapel Hill (2-3) won 38-31 in double overtime at Oxford Webb (2-3), and Southern Durham (3-2) stomped winless Northern Vance 62-6.
Southern Durham, which was the last team to win a 4A PAC-6 championship before Hillside took three straight, remains at the head of the watch list for every Big-8 coach. The Spartans’ only losses have come to 4A teams that were ranked in the state’s top 10 by the Associated Press – Hillside and Scotland County.
Orange remains the only Carolina-8 team ranked by AP, at No. 7 in the 3A ranks last week. Cardinal Gibbons never lost a conference game in the old Carolina-6. Northwood is, well, just like the Northwood teams that went three rounds into four of the past five state playoffs, said Moser.
“Northwood is just plain dangerous,” Moser said. “They hit hard. They’re well coached. They’ve got talent.”
Northwood became the first team this year to score on Orange’s defensive starters. Even after giving up 21 points Friday, Orange has yielded just 8.6 points a game.
“Even when we were by two touchdowns on them, we still didn’t feel safe,” said Moser, who left his starters in the game until the Panthers’ punched in a final TD with 4:28 to play for a three-score margin.
At Oxford, Chapel Hill weathered a late comeback by the Warriors and came up big on defense in overtime.
CHHS matched a Webb field goal with a 27-yard kick by Connor Albrecht in one overtime and then went ahead on Darius Allen’s 9-yard touchdown run in the second OT. Chapel Hill stymied the Warriors’ last possession with an interception in the end zone by Connor Korfas.
“It was great to see our players make the plays they needed to make,” said CHHS head coach Issac Marsh. He noted that the Tigers learned volumes from an overtime loss to Riverside in week 2. “They had that loss as a reference. To see them mature and make the right plays was very satisfying.”
Marsh knows the Tigers will face a tough game this week against Southern.
“Southern definitely presents a challenge – one of the most challenging games we’ll play all year,” Marsh said. “They’ve got a very experienced group. We’re very young. We’re getting better, but we’re still young.”
As if losing a 28-7 decision wasn’t bad enough, East Chapel Hill (1-5) saw injury added to insult when line coach Lou Bartek was hit on the sideline.
“We’ve lost four offensive linemen, and a coach. too,” East head coach Jon Sherman said on a cellphone call as he drove Bartek to a clinic for examination.
East looked good early at Ragsdale (2-4), driving 50 yards into the red zone before giving up an interception that Tigers returned to East’s 3-yard line. Ragsdale pinched that in for a 7-0 lead and went onto to lead 28-0 at the half.
East scored late on a 30-yard pass from Connor Stough to Arkavious Parks.