Northwood will miss all-conference running back Montel Goods, who graduated after rushing for more than 1,880 yards last year, but the Chargers don’t plan on missing the football state playoffs.
“We’ve got a lot of skilled players back,” said Charger head coach Brian Harrington, who’s counting on 18 returnees with game experience.
Harrington also has an important year of experience as a head coach. He was Northwood’s defensive coordinator for 14 years before following Bill Hall as the Chargers coach in 2015.
Including Goods, the Big 8’s co-player of the year on offense, and placekicker Matt Streets, the Chargers saw seven all-conference players depart last spring.
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But three return in strong safety Tyrell Baldwin, 230-pound fullback and defensive end Kolt Jones and 245-pound offensive lineman and linebacker Jonathan Robbins.
How do you replace Montel Goods?
They don’t. At least not with one player.
Baldwin has experience as a power back, but this year he’s more likely to be used as the first option on most running plays. Sophomores Cameron Goins and Joshua Scott are likely to play some at running back, too.
While Goods was a threat to score every time he touched the ball, Harrington plans to open things up for his runners with a bigger playbook. Play-action passes will help prevent defenses from stacking eight defenders in the box.
Who’s at quarterback?
That’s the big question right now.
Northwood has a genuine battle going on between experienced junior Alex Parker, who played QB for two seasons with Northwood’s junior varsity team and knows the playbook, and Goins, a talented sophomore who played at outside linebacker and safety for last year’s varsity.
Goins may be too valuable at other positions to keep him at quarterback.
What’s the biggest challenge for the Chargers?
Mental toughness, says Harrington.
Northwood matched up well last year with the best teams in the Big 8, Harrington noted. They were good enough to give Southern Durham its first loss in a conference game since 2012, but then lost two of their next three – including a rematch with Southern in the state playoffs.
“It all came down to performing well in those games. The other teams just played better,” Harrington said. “This year, we want to go into every game knowing we’re going to out-work the other team and not get distracted about anything else.”
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Last year: 6-6 (4-2 Big-8), 1st round 3AA playoffs
Five year average: 7-5 (4-2)
Preseason N&O rank: unranked
Coaches: Brian Harrington (Head coach, 2nd year/OL); Rayshaun Rives (Defensive Coordinator/LBs); Kyle Smith (Offensive Coordinator, RBs); Terron Sanders (DL); Brian Greco (QBs); Ray Purifoy (WRs); Jamie Hitimar (DBs).
Contributors: Tyrell Baldwin (Jr., RB/SS), Jonathan Robbins (Jr., OG/MLB), Mike Barone (Jr., OT), Alex Parker (Jr., QB/DB), Cameron Goins (Soph., QB/DB), Kolt Jones (Sr., DE/TE/FB), Jaquan Headen (Sr., WR/CB); Brendan Harrington (Soph., WR/CB), Hunter Queen (Sr., OLB).
The main number: 3 - all-conference players returning: Baldwin, Jones and Robbins.