PHOTO BY SIMON BARBRE
PITTSBORO: Anyone who ever said a kicker isn’t a football player never saw Aidan Laros.
On a muggy night where the turf at Charger Stadium was in tatters after months of rain and night after night of games from five different sports, it was Laros who scored all the points for the Northwood Chargers, who defeated Orange 10-7.
Northwood defeated Orange in Pittsboro for the first time since the two teams became Big 8 Conference rivals in 2013. The Panthers had won three straight in Charger Stadium.
Northwood now owns the tiebreaker over Orange and Chapel Hill for the second and final automatic playoff spot in the Big 8 Conference. The Chargers haven’t seen the postseason since 2017.
Orange’s two-game winning streak was snapped, a period where the Panthers frequently gambled on 4th downs and opened the Northern Durham win with an onside kick. Some of those gambles have resulted in boxcars. Against Northwood, Orange rolled snake eyes.
Leading 7-0 on its opening drive of the second half, Orange running back Elliott Woods gained eleven yards on a 3-and-13. Facing a 4th-and-two, Orange coach Van Smith opted to go for it at his own 28-yard line.
“I was playing to win,” Smith said. “We talked about that during this short, COVID season. We’re just happy to be playing football. Everything we do, we’re going to be playing to win. We’re going to be taking chances.”
Initially, quarterback Jayce Hodges tried a hard count to get Northwood offside. When that didn’t work, he gave the ball to fullback Nate Hecht, who was held to one yard by Northwood defensive linemen Michael Anthony and Christopher Poston.
After Northwood’s defensive stand, Laros easily kicked a 29-yard field goal to cut its deficit to 7-3. On the subsequent kickoff, Laros directed it to the Northwood sideline. It appeared the ball went out of bounds, but the official ruled it touched an Orange player before it went over the boundary, which forced the Panthers to start the drive at its own 6-yard line.
The Panthers went backwards and Darius Satterfield had to punt two feet in front of the goalposts. Northwood took over at the Orange 17-yard line. After junior running back Jalen Paige ran for 12 yards, Laros took a handoff from backup quarterback Cam Entrekin, cut to the inside off a block from George Gilson and crossed the goal line for the game’s only offensive touchdown.
Orange’s only points came from its defense with 4:18 remaining in the first half. Senior linebacker Elliott Woods picked off a Northwood pass and returned it 31 yards for a touchdown. Satterfield’s extra point gave Orange a 7-0 lead going into halftime.
The Panthers squandered an impressive defensive performance. Of Northwood’s five first half drives, four ended without a first down. Orange started its first two possessions in Charger real estate, but came up with nothing. Orange’s first possession ended off a dropped pass on a 4th-and-six. Later in the first quarter, J.J. Torres picked off a pass and returned it 29 yards to the Northwood 23-yard line. In the midst of muck and mud, Satterfield lined up for a 37-yard field goal, which was easily swatted away by Poston.
With Northwood running the power-I formation and Orange’s recent transition into the double wing, the game had all the makings of a defense struggle. Sure enough, Northwood won despite not completing a pass. As was the case in its 7-6 win over Chapel Hill, Laros made the biggest plays in the end. He finished with 35 yards rushing, as well as making several tackles as a linebacker.
After falling behind 10-7, Orange got life early in the fourth quarter when wingback Eric Brooks raced around right end for a 37-yard gain before junior cornerback Jack Vain saved a touchdown. After consecutive incompletions, Satterfield attempted a 31-yard field goal that crossed the left upright. The official nearest the ball initially signaled the attempt was good, only to change the call after his colleague across the way signaled no good.
Orange got the ball to midfield after a roughing the passer penalty. Faced with a 4th-and-3, Hodges kept the ball around end and appeared to have room to get the first down, but was knocked flat up his back by Chargers’ linebacker Kentrell Edwards.
Orange will now prepare for crosstown rival Cedar Ridge next Thursday. It will be the Red Wolves’ first visit to Auman Stadium since 2015.
“I can sit back and kick myself in the butt tonight (about the 4th-and-2 call),” Smith said. “I can not sleep and regret it all week long until the next football game. I’m not going to do that at all. I play the game to win. That’s what I’ve told my team to do. That’s what I’ve told my coaches to do. And that’s what we’ve been doing all along.”
NORTHWOOD 10, ORANGE 7
ORA-0 7 0 0–7
NWS-0 0 10 0-10
ORANGE-Elliott Woods 31 interception return (Darius Satterfield kick)
NORTHWOOD-Aidan Laros 29 FG
NORTHWOOD-Laros 2 run (Laros kick)
RUSHING: ORANGE 38-144 (Eric Brooks 8-59, Woods 11-39, Nate Sorrells 4-16, J.J. Torres 5-10, Nate Hecht 6-8, Jayce Hodges 2-7, Jackson Wood 2-5)
NORTHWOOD 38-128 (Jalen Paige 12-59, Laros 10-35 TD, Hue Jacobs 6-19, William Lake 3-7, Kirk Haddix 4-5, Cam Entrekin 1-4, Ryan Hillard 1-1, team 1-(-2))
PASSING: ORANGE (Hodges 2-7 41 yards)
NORTHWOOD (Haddix 0-2 2 INT)
RECEIVING: ORANGE (Sorrells 1-24, Wood 1-17)