High Schools

Northwood embraces the passing game

tstevens@newsobserver.comSeptember 9, 2013 

Northwood High football coach Bill Hall and Bill Renner, who had just retired as coach at East Chapel Hill High, were sitting around a radio studio last December waiting to be interviewed when Renner said he might drive to Pittsboro some this fall to watch practice.

Hall’s eyes widened a little and he said, “If you show up, I’m going to put you to work.”

Hall is in his 13th year as coach at Northwood and describes himself as an old-school coach. He’d like to have a speedy tailback line up behind a 240-pound fullback and attack the flanks behind the blocking of a powerful tight end or bang straight ahead behind a big offensive line.

He’d like for the Chargers to run the ball 25, 30 or more times.

But if you don’t have a 240-pound fullback, a massive tight end and a big offensive line …

“It’s not about what I want to do,” Hall said. “It’s about the kids. We need to do what will give them he best chance of winning.

“There isn’t a big fullback in the school anywhere. I’ve looked. We don’t have the big tight end. Northwood used to be known for having a bunch of big old boys, but right now we don’t.”

The December conversation led to more in-depth discussions. Renner, whose son Bryn is the quarterback at North Carolina, is a passing-game expert and does consulting work teaching the passing game. His East Chapel Hill teams would line up with five wide receivers and no running backs and pass all night.

But Bill Renner was ready for a break. He had coached for 23 years. He still loved the game and coaching, but he was ready for a few less responsibilities (read less paperwork.)

He lives near Northwood and began to drop by. He got to know Hall and his staff and met some players.

And Hall got to know Renner better, too.

Before bringing Renner onto the staff and making the commitment to the pass, Hall consulted with defensive coordinator Brian Harrington, who has been on Hall’s staff since Hall left an assistant’s job at Southern Pines Pinecrest to take the head-coaching job.

“I don’t do anything without running it by Brian,” Hall said. “When I mentioned the possibility of opening up the offense, he said this was the way to go. The passing game can put more pressure on the defense, but truthfully, the triple-option just wasn’t working that well for us. We had a lot of three rushes and a punt. That puts pressure on the defense, too.”

Wanting to learn

So Hall handed the offense to Renner.

“The big thing is that the kids wanted to learn,” Renner said. “They have done everything that they have been asked to do and they have had the fortitude to play hard on in the games. The kids deserve all of the credit.”

Quarterback Ti Pinnix, who passed for 1,065 yards and 13 touchdowns during 2012, has thrived. He has 934 passing yards and 10 touchdowns as the Chargers have dashed out to a 3-0 record, their best start during Hall’s tenure.

The schedule will get much tougher beginning this week when the Chargers play undefeated Carrboro, which played for the 2012 state 2A title. Northwood’s Mid-State 3A is loaded with strong teams – unbeaten Orange, former 4A power Southern Durham and Cardinal Gibbons.

Hall knows the passing game is not a panacea, but he believes it gives his club its best chance of winning. He suspected as much last year at the radio station.

Stevens: 919-829-8910

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