Northern continues turnaround with easy win over Jordan
DURHAM – Northern High School and first-year coach R.J. Wilson capped a climb from the abyss to a near-certain state 4-A playoff berth Friday night with an easy homecoming win over Jordan 42-7.
Playing on Durham County Memorial Stadium’s artificial turf, the Knights completed a rain-drenched odyssey from an 0-6 non-conference start against perhaps the most difficult six-game schedule in the state, to improve to 3-7, 3-1 in the PAC-6 4-A with only one game remaining in the regular season.
The Knights’ seven losses – they also lost in conference play to No. 27-ranked (4-A) Hillside – have all come against teams ranked in the top 32 in their respective classifications.
“The tough non-conference schedule did make us better,” Wilson said. “Losing can do two things to a team. You can lose (the team) or the team can come together and bond and get better, and that’s just what happened with us.”
Things have been different against weaker PAC-6 competition. Error-plagued Jordan dropped to 1-9, 0-4 PAC-6 after Friday’s loss.
Kicking game errors put Jordan in an early and inescapable hole.
On the opening kickoff to the Jordan 28, Jordan did not cover the free ball and Northern’s Micah Sessoms grabbed it to give the Knights possession on the 28.
The Knights missed a 42-yard field goal try, but came right back on Jordan’s next possession when a bad snap forced punter Picasso Keaton into a 6-yard punt which Isaiah Townsend grabbed at the Jordan 31 and returned for a score.
On the ensuing kickoff, return man Clayton Cockerham was hammered by Northern’s Devin Smith. Cockerham fumbled and Leondray Howell recovered for Northern at the Jordan 38.
Zaaqhai Mann’s quarterback sneak with 4:47 left in the first quarter capped the 38-yard scoring drive and Northern led 14-0.
“Mistake after mistake after mistake … we killed ourselves,” Jordan coach LaDwaun Harrison said.
Jordan finally hung onto a kickoff and Rahim Winston’s seven-yard scoring run capped a 58-yard drive on the final play of the first quarter to make it 14-7, but the kicking game bit Jordan again.
Marcus Starr returned Gyasi Edwards’ kickoff 88 yards for a score on the first play of the second quarter for a 21-7 Northern edge.
The kicking woes continued as Northern’s Atavion Oliver blocked a Keaton punt in the second quarter to give the Knights possession at the Jordan 47, but Northern didn’t convert it into points.
Northern led 28-7 on the half as Alphonso Gbojueh scored from the 5 and Starr added a 25-yard run early in the fourth to make it 35-7 as the Knights steadily pulled away.
Jordan had one final drive in it, getting to the Northern 13 with five minutes left in the game. But Matt Gampe’s pass was picked off by Oliver at the 4 and Oliver returned it 96 yards for a score with 4:55 to play.
NOTES – Roxboro Person (3-6, 1-2), whose road game at Riverside (6-3, 2-1) was postponed Friday and will be made up at 6 p.m. Monday at Riverside, is the only team with a shot at ousting Northern from the playoffs.
To do it, Person would have to upset heavily favored Riverside and pull off one of the biggest upsets of the season against Hillside (7-2, 4-0) on the road Friday night and still would only tie Northern for the final of three PAC-6 state playoff berths. …
NORTHERN 42, JORDAN 7
Jordan | 7| 0| 0| 0 – 7
Northern | 14| 14| 0| 14 – 42
N – Isaiah Townsend 31 punt return (T.J. Milby kick), 6:26
N – Zaqhaai Mann 1 run (Milby kick), 4:47
J – Rahim Winston 7 run (Gyasi Edwards kick), 0:00
N – Marcus Starr 88 kick return (Milby kick), 11:48
N – Alphonso Gbojueh (Milby kick), 5:04
N –Starr 25 run (Milby kick), 10:39
N – Atavion Oliver 96 interception return (Milby kick), 4:55
RUSHING – Jordan, Rahim Winston26-97, Matt Gampe 2-21, Malik Marcin-Lewis 2-6, Chris Francis 4-(minus 13). Northern, Alphonso Gbojueh 10-33, Marcus Starr 11-31, DeShon Holmes 3-4, Zaaqhai Mann 11-89.
PASSING – Jordan, Matt Gampe 9-19-2 43. Northern, Zaaqhai Mann 2-6-0 20, Griffin Baker 0-1-0.
RECEIVING – Jordan, Rahim Winston 1-0, Chris Francis 2-6, Picasso Keaton 2-19, Tyler Pittman 1-15, Marshall Thompson 1-2. Northern, Jalon Nixon 1-13, Demarius McNeill 1-7.
FGs missed – Milby (N) 42.
Records – Jordan 1-9, 0-4 PAC-6 4-A; Northern 3-7, 3-1 PAC-6.