Orange’s season ended Friday night as Northern Guilford pounded the Panthers 31-7 in the third round of the 3AA N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs.
Orange (13-2) was one win shy of a berth in the state semifinals.
“It was a very successful season,” Orange coach Pat Moser said. “The boys have been a pleasure to coach and I hate to see the seniors go. They’re a special group; they worked real hard. Wish we could play one more.”
After the Nighthawks (13-1) scored the first touchdown of the game on a run by C.J. Freeman, the Panthers turned to quarterback Garrett Clore to provide a punch on offense in the second quarter, deviating from the original offensive game plan.
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Clore threw for 118 yards and a touchdown, which came at the end of the third quarter with his team trailing by 31.
“I have tremendous confidence in Garret. He’s a great thrower,” Moser said. “The problem becomes, ‘Can you get open?’ Northern Guilford had a tremendous amount of speed ... and we had a hard time getting open.”
Michael Bolden and Drew Lemaster were able to move the ball in the first half on the ground. Bolden rushed for 36 yards on eight carries and Lemaster ran for 22 yards on seven carries.
“When we were down seven, we were still trying to run the ball, but they brought nine people to the line of scrimmage and cut our run down,” Moser said. “Then we have to throw the football and we weren’t able to do that. They were able to cover us man-to-man and it didn’t work out for us.
“We then tried to mix in some run with the pass, and when we were down 21-0, we just had to start throwing the ball if we wanted to get back into the game.”
On their first possession of the game, the Panthers failed on a fourth down attempt on the Nighthawks’ 17 yard line. Northern Guilford took less than three minutes to score on the ensuing drive on a two-yard run by Cam Harris.
Northern Guilford extended the lead on its next possession when Harris threw a screen pass to Mook Reynolds that went for 17 yards and another TD.
Orange’s first play following Reynolds’ TD was a fumble, recovered by Northern Guilford at the Panthers’ 35. The Nighthawks scored nine plays later when Harris ran to the left side for a five-yard TD.
Moser praised Harris’ athletic ability.
“His big runs came when he dropped back to pass, and with no one being open, taking off on a scramble run,” Moser said. “Once he got through our front line, he had great speed.”
Harris finished with 180 passing yards, 115 rushing yards, and three TDs.