Northwood charges toward playoffs in second-half trouncing of Northern Durham

BY BRENNAN DOHERTY, News + Record Correspondent
Posted 4/9/21

PITTSBORO — One day, when his collegiate career begins at Florida International University, Aidan Laros’ sole responsibility will be kicking the football.

In the meantime, he’s …

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Northwood charges toward playoffs in second-half trouncing of Northern Durham

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Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that Northwood has since qualified for the NCHSAA 3A playoffs, along with an update to their record to include a forfeit win over Vance County last week.

PITTSBORO — One day, when his collegiate career begins at Florida International University, Aidan Laros’ sole responsibility will be kicking the football.

In the meantime, he’s making the most of the jack-of-all-trades role he has as a senior at Northwood, and the Chargers are better for it. 

Northwood needed to win Thursday’s regular-season finale against Northern Durham to stay alive in the postseason hunt, and Laros’ big night — three rushing touchdowns, an interception and a 47-yard field goal — helped his team to do just that, winning 44-12 thanks to a strong second half showing.

“The whole season, we’ve been a second-half team,” said Laros, who ran for 80 yards and three touchdowns on 11 carries. “It’s just getting the right mentality down before the game and going 110% from the start. We get a little bit lackadaisical at the start, but when we kick in, we make sure that we get the job done.”

In the end, the job was finished Thursday night. 

Up 14-12 after an evenly matched opening two quarters, the Chargers ended the game on a 30-0 run, wearing down the visiting Knights with their run game and stout defense. The win improved Northwood to 5-2 (5-1 in the Big Eight 3A Conference), and the Chargers officially qualified for the playoffs on Friday when a three-team draw between Northwood, Chapel Hill and Southern Durham determined a couple of different conference standing scenarios. The Chargers will be the first-place finishers in the jam-packed conference if Chapel Hill beats Orange on Saturday, and the second-place finishers if Orange defeats Chapel Hill.

In his postgame speech, Northwood head coach Cullen Homolka spoke to his players as if there will be a playoff game next week. 

In reality, that wasn't yet a certainty at the time. But Thursday’s win had Homolka excited about the prospects of the postseason, even if Northwood's participation in it wasn't guaranteed.

“We’re clicking at the right time, man,” Homolka said. “We work on this stuff all the time. Constant reps, constant reps — we’re reps guys. We’re getting there.” 

Northwood’s ball-hawking secondary got the team off to a good start, as senior safety Cam Entrekin — also the Chargers’ starting quarterback — picked off Northern Durham’s Kyle Barnhill and ran 70-plus yards for a pick-6 on the opening possession of the game. The interception was the first of two on the night for Entrekin and three for Northwood as a team. 

The Knights answered back on a 27-yard touchdown run by Bryant Jones Jr., set up by a fumble by Entrekin, but missed the extra point. 

Laros’ first of three scores on the ground, this one from five yards out, gave Northwood a 14-6 lead six seconds into the second quarter. 

Northern Durham showed life late in the half and responded with a 35-yard touchdown pass from Barnhill to Chris Kujawa with 35 seconds remaining before the break, bringing the score to 14-12 with one of the few bright spots in the passing game for the visitors, who threw three interceptions. 

But from that point on, Northwood ran away with the game. Early on in the third quarter, a Northwood drive stalled after being given a short field, but Laros’ 47-yard kick built the Chargers’ lead to 17-12 and they never looked back. 

“I will miss (Laros), because he can change an entire game on one kick or one punt,” Homolka said. “What he can do is something that a lot of people don’t have.” 

Red zone touchdown runs by senior fullback William Lake and Laros — only 1:59 apart early on in the fourth quarter — put the game away, giving Northwood a 31-12 advantage. Along the way, the Chargers began to methodically wear down Northern Durham’s defense. 

“That’s how it should happen,” Homolka said. 

As a team, the Chargers ran for 188 yards on 38 carries, nearly five yards per carry. Even backup quarterback Kirk Haddix left his mark, galloping down the sideline for a 39-yard score in the game’s final minute. 

“I’m not sure what touchdown it was, but we scored a touchdown, and I could just see Northern’s heads down,” Laros said, “and we started picking it up from there.”

Conversely, the Knights rushed for only 109 yards on 42 attempts and struggled as a unit as the night progressed. 

Not yet knowing if his team had qualified for the postseason, Laros said he believed he and his teammates "100%" deserved a spot.


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