Quick: What was the only football game that Orange trailed at the half in 2016?
Southern Durham? Nope. Havelock? Scoreless tie in the first half. Riverside? Close. Northern Vance? Not quite.
It was Northwood, almost a forgotten game for a variety of reasons. First of all, it was played on a Monday night, just a week after Orange’s demolishment of Southern Durham. A rainstorm that was expected to be heavy delayed the game to Monday, though other neighboring schools played that Friday night.
Perhaps all of those factors led to Orange’s offense being lethargic in the first half. The Panthers committed turnovers on its first two drives and were stopped on fourth-and-short situations twice in the second quarter.
While Northwood only had two first downs in the first half, they did get a 31-yard field goal from Arthur Gonclaves with 3:29 remaining in the first quarter. It came after linebacker Michael Hayes recovered a fumble at the Orange 38-yard line.
As Orange did so often in the second halves of games, they rode their powerful running attack to victory against the Chargers. But this was no ordinary ball control game. This was an offense so conservative, it would make Ted Nugent blush.
In the second half, Orange ran 37 plays and picked up 13 first downs. Northwood ran eights plays with zero first downs.
Payton Wilson, a wingback who really was utilized more as a wide receiver in the final month of the season, rushed for 82 yards in the second half alone. He finished with 155 rushing yards, and another 33 yards receiving.
It led to Orange winning 19-3 behind another strong defensive performance, which would be the Panthers trademark in 2016. In the regular season, Orange’s defense yielded just three touchdowns and mounted a 24-quarter streak without giving up a touchdown.
To put that in perspective, that’s six whole regulation games without giving up an offensive touchdown (Northern Durham did score a defensive TD off a fumble return for a touchdown on August 26).
As the season unfolded, it was hardly the final highlight for Wilson or the Orange defense in a year that will forever live in Panther lore.