Orange and Northwood’s first meeting in the Big Eight conference could have been closer. Both teams entered the game with perfect 4-0 records and a reasonable claim to being the best team in the area.
But four first-half interceptions thrown by Northwood quarterback Ti Pinnix allowed the Panthers to take a 20-7 lead at halftime and cruise to a convincing 41-21 win in Pittsboro.
“But we can’t put all that on Ti,” Chargers coach Bill Hall said. “Twice the receiver slipped, another one, he was getting hit as he threw it. If we score those two possessions, then we’re up late in the ball game.”
The Panthers set up the opening touchdown by intercepting Pinnix’s third pass of the game – quarterback Garret Cloer hit Ky Muller for a 15-yard passing touchdown three plays later.
Tay Jones, a junior running back for the Panthers, added two touchdowns to the Orange total during a minute-and-a-half period during the second quarter. First, he returned Northwood’s only kickoff of the half for a 96-yard touchdown.
On the next drive, Brooks intercepted a Pinnix pass at the Northwood 12-yard-line, and Jones broke through into open space on the next play, sprinting 88 yards for another score.
Center Jacob Leviner’s snaps were consistently low, and Orange did well to deny Pinnix the quick slant routes Northwood relies upon to build momentum.
Though Orange fumbled the kickoff to begin the third quarter, Northwood went three-and-out after starting on Orange’s 39.
On the Panthers’ next drive, Northwood again failed to capitalize when fortune seemed to swing its way. On fourth and long, a Charger safety was flagged for pass interference in the end zone. Cloer snuck the ball in two plays later to extend the Orange lead to 27-7.
A four-and-out later, Orange again had possession, and Cloer wasted no time hitting Jeffrey Campbell for a 35-yard touchdown on the left sideline to give his team its largest advantage of the game at 34-7.
Northwood responded with two touchdowns in the final 13 minutes, but Orange’s final touchdown drive put the game out of reach with four-and-a-half minutes to play.