For the seventh straight time, Orange football has defeated Chapel Hill.

Alex Long scored four touchdowns on Friday night as the Panthers defeated the Tigers 40-19 on senior night at Culton-Peerman Stadium. Junior quarterback Jackson Schmid threw three touchdown passes as the Panthers (9-1, 4-1 in the Big 8) won its fourth straight.

The win insured the Panthers will take one of the Big 8 Conference’s three automatic births to the state playoffs, which the Orange coaching staff knew going in. What they didn’t know was how much Northwood would help the Panthers cause—or perhaps hurt it.

The Chargers stunned Southern Durham 26-24 at Spartans Stadium, ending Southern’s 23-game conference winning streak. The Spartans had not lost a conference game since returning to 3-A football and the formation of the Big 8 Conference in 2013. It’s last conference loss was on September 14, 2012 as a 4-A school, falling to archrival Hillside.

The Panthers will finish the regular season next week at Oxford Webb (they will be idle on November 6th). A win guarantees they will tie for the conference championship. Southern finishes with a home game against Cedar Ridge and a road trip to Webb. Northwood plays at Northern Vance next week and hosts Chapel Hill on Nov. 6. If all three schools win out, they will draw for playoff positioning.

That means Northwood’s win may give Orange a top six seed for the state playoffs….or they could draw third and wind up on the road for the opening round, with more road games to follow.

As for the game against Chapel Hill, the Panthers rode its running game again, carrying the ball 62 times. Senior Bryse Wilson led the Panthers with 97 yards. Fellow senior Drew Lemaster, who appeared to be injured during the second quarter after a collision with Chapel Hill wide receiver Connor Korfas, rushed for 68 yards on 12 carries.

Arguably, it was Schmid’s best game of the season. He threw for 214 yards. The most noteworthy possession came late in the first half, when Chapel Hill scored on a 20-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Connor Stough to wide receiver Albert Nyamayaro to narrow the Orange lead to 21-12. With only 47 seconds remaining, it seemed the standard protocol would be to have Schmid take two knees and go to the locker room.

Instead, Schmid aired it out, covering 60 yards in 30 seconds. Consecutive completions to Cody Evans of 25 and 35 yards advanced the ball to the Tiger 13-yard line. Then Schmid found Long for a 11-yard catch-and-run to tack on another touchdown.

“I think Jackson is getting more poised,” said Moser. “Chapel Hill was putting nine men in the box against us, so we had to pass it at some points. Jackson made good decisions out there tonight.”

Long has stepped in for running back Eryk Brandon-Dean, who was lost for the season with a torn ACL suffered against Southern Durham on September 24th. He’s the change of pace runner the Panthers desparately need after a rash of injuries to skill players during the opening two months of the season.

Montee Mitchell also caught a touchdown pass from Schmid (which he set up moments earlier with a 28-yard punt return into Tiger territory), and registered an interception on defense.

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