PREP PREVIEW 2014: Parts in place for big sendoff for Northwood's Hall
A potent Northwood team will storm back into the Big Eight 3-A Conference this season with a motivational chip on the shoulder and a roster loaded with talented returners.
“We had a streak there of five straight years where we went to the third round of the state playoffs. The last couple of years we got eliminated in the first round, and that’s left a bad taste in all of our mouths,” said coach Bill Hall, who will be leading the Chargers on the field for the last time this season before he hangs up his whistle.
“That’s definitely one of our team goals, to make another run in the playoffs,” Hall said. Northwood was 4-3 in conference play, 8-4 overall last season, losing in the first round of the state playoffs to Eastern Alamance, 56-21.
The Chargers have a half dozen returning all-conference players, “so that’s a good place to start with,” Hall said.
They are 6-0, 236-pound center Jack Dalton; 6-1, 185-pound quarterback Ty Pinnix; 6-3, 210-pound running back Kadarus Rone; 5-9, 160-pound wide receiver Jalen Smith; 6-1, 350-pound defensive lineman Elijah Washington; and 6-3, 190-pound linebacker Jared Worley.
‘We’ve got nine returning starters on offense, and nine returning starters on defense. I think we’re going to have about 30 returning seniors, and that group of seniors has really busted their butts this off-season,” Hall said.
Most of the offensive skill players are back, “and this is the group that collectively threw for over 4,000 yards last year, and Kadarus had about 1,200 yards rushing” along with 11 touchdowns, Hall said.
“Jared Worley is one of our captains from last year. He went to a few camps this summer to get some looks at,” Hall said. “Jalen Smith was the N.C. Preps 3-A preseason all-state selection. Our team MVP last year at quarterback, Ty Pinnix, has had a great summer and great off-season and hopefully he will continue on.”
This season will be “business as usual,” Hall said.
“Coach Bill Renner came in last year to run the offense and did a great job. He’s found some new wrinkles with people before. Coach Brian Harrington is my defensive coordinator, has been since day one, and we’re not changing anything there either. We didn’t have to,” Hall said.
The Chargers will be in a spread offense, with one back deep and the other positioned wide. Hall anticipates play selection being 50-50 run-pass.
“That’s going to be determined by what the defenses give us. We’ll do whatever we have to do,” he said.
“There was a game last year where we threw the ball 69 times. If you had told me a team I coached would ever throw that many passes in a game I would have told you you’re crazy,” Hall said. “And there were games when we ran the ball 40 times.”
“If our O-line can improve, and we get better in the secondary, we’ve got a chance to do some things,” Hall said.
Defensively the Chargers will align in a 4-4 formation. Hall believes his D-line is one of the team strengths, returning three of four starters, with four scrappy players challenging for that remaining spot.
“The defense realizes they didn’t play very well last year and they’ve stepped in and had a really good summer,” Hall said.
“Darius Cole is an example. He was an OK football player last year. He has bought in and has really been one of our preseason outstanding defensive players. He’ll play corner for us,” Hall said.
Northwood lost its kickers to graduation, and that will be “a spot of concern,” Hall said.
Soccer player Matt Streets, a junior, will fill that role, having never played football before. Hall said he has been looking good to date.
“We’ll see how it goes when he gets some pads on and there’s a defense on the other side of the ball when he’s trying to kick,” Hall said. “We don’t kick a lot of field goals to start with. If he can kick it we won’t have any problem putting him in there.”
Like other Big Eight coaches, Hall didn’t hesitate when asked to name a preseason conference favorite.
“You’ve got to go with Southern, defending state champions, a lot of skill players back, a lot of defensive players back. They’re loaded again,” Hall said.
“I think Orange is going to be very good again. They didn’t lose a whole lot. Chapel Hill will be much improved, and you never know about Cardinal Gibbons, so it should be a dog fight again this year,” he said.
“If there’s a tougher 3A conference in the state I’d like to see it,” Hall said. “You’re talking about five or six teams in our conference that could make some noise come playoff time, so it’s a tough conference.”
Here’s a look at the likely starters:
Offense — WR Jalen Smith, Imoh Udohm, John Atwater or Jacob Fowler and Anthony Upchurch or Jared Worley or B.J. Harrington; RB Montel Goods and Kadarus Rone; QB Ti Pinnix; OT Dylan Jarmon and Jacob Bass; OG Jonathan Welch and Luke Spach; C Jack Dalton.
Defense — DE Udoh and Hunter Blackmon; DT Brady Koenning and Elijah Washington; LB Jared Worley, Michael Queen, Trent Cline and Jacob Leviner; CB Darius Cole and Nitrel Evans or Tyler Whitaker; S B.J. Harrington.
Special teams — K Matt Streets; P Pinnix or Whitaker; KR Jalen Smith or Udoh or Rone.
PREP PREVIEWS: This is the fifth in a 17-part series previewing area high school football programs. The series continues daily through Friday, Aug. 22, the opening day of the season for most area programs.