When a coach inherits a program that’s been successful as long as Northwood, there’s not much call for change.
Brian Harrington took over last spring as head coach in Pittsboro after spending 14 seasons on the staff of Bill Hall, who retired at the end of the school year. Hall’s teams went 132-64 in 15 years, missing the playoffs just three times in that span. The Chargers reached the third round of the playoffs every year from 2006 to 2010.
“People expect that we won’t change the foundations of the program,” Harrington said. “I’m not going to be exactly like coach Hall. The program will look a little different – a little.”
Northwood (9-3, 5-2) still expects to use a spread formation similar to the one installed by Hall’s last offensive coordinator, the always up-tempo Bill Renner, but it will utilize a pistol look some of the time.
“Like coach Hall, I believe you have to run the ball to be successful,” Harrington said.
Renner’s offenses, sometimes with only the quarterback between the tackles, might throw 40, 50, even 60-plus times a game. Harrington notes that Northwood’s two-time all-conference quarterback Ti Pinnix and many of his top receivers were among the 27 seniors who graduated off last year’s football team. Also gone is all-conference back Kadarus Rone (rushing: 545 yards, 15 TDs; receiving: 757 yards, 6 TDs).
That makes all-conference running back Montel Goods, one of Northwood’s six returning starters, even more valuable to the team. Last year, he rushed for 627 yards and eight touchdowns, and he had 240 yards and 2 TDs as a receiver.
Northwood has some other backs and receivers coming returning, but few who saw regular action in games. The best of them may be Brian “B.J.” Harrington, son of the head coach. He made the Big 8’s all-conference team last year as a free safety who made 40 tackles, 3 interceptions.
The thing still puzzling Harrington is who will follow Pinnix at quarterback. Rising senior Adam Lambert started and won some games last year when Pinnix was injured, but he’s being pressed for this year’s starting role by junior Dillon Mazurek and sophomore Kyle Jones.
Mazurek was a two-year starter at quarterback for the junior varsity. Jones played quarterback in middle school before shifting to wideout for the Northwood JV team; he expressed interest in returning to QB this year and has impressed Harrington during the summer’s 7-on-7 games.
“The first question we’ve had as a coaching staff is how to replace an all-conference quarterback like Ti and an all-conference running back like Kadarus,” Harrington said. “Montel gives us a starter. But we’ve got a three guys in the mix at quarterback.”
Starters returning: 4 offense; 2 defense.
Lettermen returning: 15
Lettermen graduated: 27
Player they’ll miss the most: QB Ti Pinnix.
Top returnees: RB Montell Goods, FS/WR B.J. Harrington; LB Michael Queen.
Team Strength: Defense. “The defense will carry us, especially early on as some of the people on offense gain experience,” Harrington said.
Question mark: Quarterback – which of 3 candidates gets the start?
The big game: Sept 18 at Lee County. The Yellow Jackets, winners of nine games for three straight years, take the place of Southern Lee on Northwood’s schedule and will be a benchmark test for the Chargers one week before the start of Big-8 play.
Last five years
2014: 9-3 (5-2), 3AA first round
2013: 8-4 (4-3), 3A first round
2012: 6-6 (2-2), 2AA first round
2011: 4-7 (3-1), 2AA first round
2010: 10-5 (4-0), 2AA third round