Northwood threw everything it had at Southern Durham Friday night, but once again the Spartans showed why they are the undefeated, defending state 3AA champs, and ranked No. 1 in the state.
Southern escaped with a 33-25 win in a classic battle that easily could have been played deep in the playoffs a few weeks from now.
“It was a playoff game,” said Northwood coach Bill Hall, whose team fell to 6-2 overall and 2-2 in the Big Eight 3A Conference, with the two losses to two of the top teams in the state, Southern and Orange.
“That’s the best team in the state, I don’t care what classification you talk about. And for us to play toe to toe with them, have them on the ropes all night, just came up a touchdown short at the end. Very proud of our guys, but we’ve got to find a way to get over that hump.”
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Southern quarterback Kendall Hinton had a pair of touchdown runs including a clutch 49-yarder in the fourth quarter, but even he admitted this one belonged to the defense.
“Our defense had a great game, definitely have to give them credit for this win,” said Hinton, a Shrine Bowl selection who will play at Wake Forest University. “They’re the best in the state and showed it tonight, with, I think, seven turnovers. They got the ball back and gave us opportunities.”
Northwood, led by quarterback Ti Pinnix, led 25-21 entering the final period. But Southern had to drive just 40 yards to take the lead when Hinton passed to a wide-open Jordon Brown for a 10-yard scoring play, putting Southern up 27-25 with 10:07 to play.
After the Spartans’ defense forced a three-and-out, a penalty on the punt return put the Spartans on their own 5-yard line. But that’s when Hinton was at his best. He got his team out of the hole with a 15-yard run and completed a 19-yard pass.
But his 49-yard touchdown run on a zone-read play fooled just about everyone in the stadium. He kept the ball in front of Brown until the last possible second before pulling the ball back.
“It was a great call,” Hinton said. “It looked kind of shaky at first and they have great athletes.”
Hinton ended the game with 108 yards rushing and 235 passing, completing 15 of 32. A pretty good night for most quarterbacks.
“Kendall wasn’t on tonight and we had to call on other phases to pick up,” Southern coach Darius Robinson said. “Special teams weren’t on either, but the defense played a great game. That a great offense, a great team over there, but we tell our guys they’ve got to believe in each other in adversity.
“Kendall’s touchdown was a magician’s play. It’s all about the knowledge and the reps in practice. He’s so intelligent and so athletic.”
Robinson pointed to defenders Marvin Tillman, who had two interceptions and a fumble recovery, Tahj Spivey, Jawwad Evans, Christian Howze, who plays both ways, Victor Boston and Isaiah Ross.
“Those guys take the ball and say follow me,” Robinson said.
Robinson said the Big Eight could be the best team in the state, and Hall agreed.
“This was a great game, played by two great teams, with two of the best quarterbacks in the state,” Hall said. “Kendall is the best in the state and mine (Pinnix) is right up there. He had a couple of interceptions off batted balls, just one of those things.”
Pinnix ran for 85 yards and threw for 191. He threw for two touchdowns.