PITTSBORO — East Chapel Hill lived by the five-wide passing attack last year under former head coach Bill Renner, and the Wildcats died by its hand Friday night in a 39-14 loss at Northwood.
Tutored by Renner, now the offensive coordinator at Northwood, Charger quarterback Ti Pinnix passed for 248 yards and three touchdowns in Northwood's first win on opening night in three years.
"This meant something to the seniors," Northwood coach Bill Hall said. "Now they're 1-0 for the first time in their high school career."
Pinnix, a 6-1 junior, connected with Jalen Smith for two touchdowns — the first on a 56-yard pass just 2:54 into Friday's game and another on a 26-yarder on Northwood's opening possession of the second half.
Pinnix put Northwood ahead 39-7 with his 12-yard strike to Tyler Whitaker with 9:45 left to play in the game.
Kadarus Rone gave Northwood a 14-0 lead on a 3-yard plunge with 2:24 left in the first quarter, two plays after Michael Queen returned a failed 43-yard East Chapel Hill field goal attempt 95 yards from the goal line to the Wildcats' five-yard line.
"That play really took the wind out of us," East Chapel Hill first-year head coach John Sherman said of Queen's big return.
With that one play, Queen had more yards than Rone, who ended up as Northwood's leading rusher from scrimmage, with 81 yards on 16 carries.
"We've just got to get better, especially running the ball," Hall said.
After a 5-yard touchdown pass from East's Connor Stough to Colby Owens cut the margin to 14-7, a 20-yard field goal by Anthony Castro made Northwood's lead 17-7 at halftime.
Montel Goods added a three-yard run for a touchdown and a 31-7 Northwood lead with 1:35 left in the third quarter.
Stough capped a 6-play, 75-yard drive midway through the fourth quarter with a 45-yard touchdown pass to Jack Hankins, making for a final 39-14 margin.
On East's final possession, Stough hooked up with Hankins for a 60-yard pass play and then threw a 28-yard pass to Arkavious Parks, getting the 'Cats to the Northwood four-yard line with 1:51 to play, but they couldn't punch it in.
Renner later admitted he had some mixed feelings after watching the Wildcats struggle.
"I still really like those guys," Renner said. "They won a lot of games for me over the past three years. "