Friday Night Lights; Offensive fireworks, PAC-6 'title' on tap tonight?
Conference football season is in full swing and the two biggest games in the spotlight Friday will be Hillside at Riverside (7 p.m.) in the PAC-6 4-A and Northwood at Southern (7 p.m.) in the Big Eight 3-A Conference.
The showcase game of the night, especially for fans of offense, might well be Northwood (6-1, 2-1 Big Eight) at Southern (5-2, 3-0 Big Eight). Both teams have the ability to run and throw and have the playmakers on offense to explode any time they touch the ball.
At quarterback, Northwood’s Ti Pinnix has thrown for 1,951 yards and 20 TDs while completing 60 percent of his passes (163-271). Southern’s Kendall Hinton has very similar numbers (89-137, 1,583 yards) while completing 65 percent of his throws for 14 scores.
But Hinton has the edge on the ground. He’s the Spartans’ second-leading rusher with 34 carries for 455 yards and five touchdowns. William Cameron (41-503, 7 TDs) is Southern’s top rusher and Jordan Brown chips in 329 yards on 34 carries and five rushing scores.
On the edge and through the air, Southern looks to future N.C. State wideout Maurice Trowell who has 33 catches for 721 yards (21.85 per grab) and 10 touchdowns.
Southern actually rushes for more yardage than it gets through the air, 267 to 238 per game.
Northwood’s mix is much more air-oriented — 334 to 119 per game on average — but backs Kadarus Rone (62-346, 5 TDs) and Montel Goods (52-257, 4 TDs) came move it on the ground.
Big-play threat Jalen Smith has caught 55 of Pinnix’s passes for 845 yards (15.4 per grab) for 12 TDs and Rone’s versatility has allowed him to catch 37 passes for 334 yards and four scores.
For the season, Northwood is averaging 41.4 points a game on offense and allowing 22.9 per game on defense. Southern scores 46 points a game while giving up just over 25.
Don’t let the records fool you. Both teams have had outstanding seasons.
Southern’s losses have been to two of the state’s top 4-A programs — undefeated and No. 4-ranked Scotland County and No. 32 Hillside. Northwood’s only loss was to undefeated Big Eight power Orange, ranked No. 7 among the state’s 3-A programs. Orange has not been challenged while outscoring its opponents 311-50 in its seven wins.
Southern coach Adrian Jones is aware of the challenge the Spartans will face.
“This is another tough conference game ...,” Jones said. “We have to make sure we play a sound game and contain the QB (Pinnix) and WR (Smith). We have to do a much better job on special teams and defense.”
Meanwhile, Hillside (4-2, 1-0 PAC-6) is the prohibitive PAC-6 favorite, but Riverside (5-2, 1-0 PAC-6) has had a remarkably surprising start that’s marked the Pirates as Hillside’s most serious title challenger.
Riverside has played head-and-shoulders better than fellow PAC-6 members Northern (1-6, 1-0 PAC-6), Person (2-5, 0-1 PAC-6), East Chapel Hill (1-6, 0-1 PAC-6) and Jordan (1-6, 0-1 PAC-6). Much of Riverside’s success can be traced to the running of 5-4, 185-pound senior back Joel Evans, who’s picked up 1,361 yards on the season.
However, Evans hasn’t posted great numbers against top defensive teams, being held to 68 yards, for example, against Orange in a blowout loss.
The key to any hopes the Pirates have of actually taking Hillside down tonight will likely hinge on the team’s ability to control the line of scrimmage and get Evans some running room against one of the tougher defenses around.
Riverside’s reliance on the ground game could prompt Hillside to stack its defense against it, unless the Pirates can come up with a passing attack to diversify its offense.
Here’s a look at tonight’s other games involving area teams.
— East Chapel Hill (1-6, 0-1 PAC-6) at Northern (1-6, 1-0 PAC-6), 7 p.m. — This game could open the door for the winner to lay claim to third place in the PAC-6, which entails the league’s final playoff berth. Unlikely as it seems, each program is very much in the running, although Northern has the edge based on its opening week win over Person that snapped a six-game losing streak, all against non-conference opponents. The game will be played on Northern’s home field, Durham County Memorial Stadium.
— Jordan (1-6, 0-1 PAC-6) at Roxboro Person (2-5, 0-1 PAC-6), 7 p.m. — Any playoff aspirations either of these teams still hold depend almost entirely on the outcome of this game. It’s unlikely the loser has a prayer of making the playoffs after an 0-2 start in a five-game conference season.
— Orange (7-0, 3-0 Big Eight) at Chapel Hill (3-4, 2-1 Big Eight) — To earn an eventual state playoff berth after a very shaky start, Chapel Hill has to upset a team or two down the stretch. That’s not likely to happen against powerful Orange, who’s numbers have been touched on above. With a defense that’s second to very, very few — if any — and an offense that scores points in bunches, the visiting Panthers are an overwhelming favorite to win this one. Chapel Hill has also been bitten by the injury bug, losing its top two running backs last week in a tight win over hapless and winless Northern Vance.
— Oxford Webb (2-5, 0-3 Big Eight) at Cedar Ridge (0-7, 0-3), 7 p.m. — Webb’s defense has allowed 100 fewer points than winless Cedar Ridge (216-316), but Cedar Ridge has scored 21 more than Webb (153-132). This is a chance for either team to pick up a win and in the tough Big Eight Conference, that might be all either one gets. Although Northern Vance (0-7, 0-3 Big Eight) remains on both schedules.
— South Granville (6-1, 1-0 Northern Carolina 2-A) at Southern Vance (2-5, 0-1 N.C. 2-A), 7:30 p.m. — South Granville holds down a top 10 ranking among 2-A schools by the Associated Press for a reason. The Vikings are outstanding. They have a solid quarterback in Matt McCutcheon who can take the heat off running back Sean Bowman if need be. Bowman, who has carried the ball 179 times for 1,529 yards and 12 touchdowns, rarely needs help. South Granville has outscored its opponents almost 2 to 1 on the year (304-157) and Southern Vance, a former 3-A program, has been outscored by almost 2 to 1 (114-198). It should be an easy South Granville win.
— Carrboro (4-3, 1-0 Mid-State 2-A) at Burlington Cummings (1-6, 0-1 Mid-State), 7 p.m. — Everything about this game screams Carrboro win, but after a 3-0 start this year and a runner-up finish in the state 2-A playoffs last year, the Jaguars lost star back Trai Sharp and star receiver/defensive back Marlin Johnson to injury. Three losses ensued before Carrboro pulled out a homecoming win last Friday. Even without Sharp and Johnson, Carrboro has the talent to fight its way to a victory tonight.
— Southeast Halifax (4-3, 0-1 Tar-Roanoke 1-A) at Granville Central (4-3, 1-0 Tar-Roanoke), 7:30 p.m. — These teams are remarkably similar except for their conference records. SE Halifax lost a 44-42 heartbreaker to tough Louisburg in its opener last week, while the Panthers were on the better end of a 16-8 conference opener. Granville Central has outscored its opponents 282-115 and Southeast Halifax holds a 244-188 scoring edge. The Panthers should be favored, but not by a lot, at least on paper.
— Kestrel Heights (1-6) at Newton Grove Hobbton (0-7), 7 p.m. — Kestrel Height’s lone “win” came against a non-high school opponent two weeks ago when the Hawks played a team of home-schooled students and beat them 40-8. Toss out that result, since it wasn’t against a sanctioned high school, and the Hawks are 0-6 and have been outscored 306-40. Hobbton might be winless, but they’re a heavy favorite in this one. Still, for a program that has never beaten a traditional varsity opponent, this might be the best chance for a breakthrough for coach David Lloyd and the Hawks this season.