ROCK HILL — Much of the talk entering Friday nights Northwestern-Charlotte Catholic football game centered on one Cougar: locomotive running back Elijah Hood.
Roughly 40 Trojans ensured that the talk afterward was about one team: Northwestern.
Hood rushed for 190 yards and broke the Mecklenburg County all-time rushing record, but Kyle Richardsons crew preyed upon three Catholic interceptions in a 38-17 win at District 3 Stadium.
Like we said all week, we werent gonna stop him, Richardson said afterward, his daughter draped around his neck. We just tried to find a way, bottom line, for him to not beat us, and thats what we did.
Northwestern (2-0) stacked the box to prevent Hood, a North Carolina commitment who averaged nearly 12 yards per carry en route to a 3,300-yard, 48-touchdown 2012 season, from ripping off any of the lengthy, sapping runs hes known for. His longest effort from scrimmage was 16 yards, a week after posting 63- and 47-yard touchdowns in a win over Gonzaga (D.C.).
We were excited, said Northwestern linebacker Russell Hubbs about the prospect of facing Hood. We love tough competition. We go against it every practice.
Catholics offense was limited to just one touchdown in its lowest scoreboard output since a December 2010 loss.
They just blitzed the linebackers and we couldnt pick them up, said longtime Catholic (1-1) coach Jim Oddo. We had a few runs in there, but we didnt block well. Theyre a little heavier, a little bigger.
Catholics three interceptions spoke of a rough night for Cougars quarterback Ryan Miller. He completed 1 of 5 passes, and there seemed to be a sense that Oddos team might not be able to stop the Trojans offense, prodding them from their normal modus operandi of pounding the football through Hood.
Its not what they typically do, so we just stayed in there and played our normal defense, Richardson said, referring to Trojans interceptions by Corey Seargent, Jaquavious Mackey and Gabe Gresham.
Ultimately, the Cougars werent able to stop the Trojans offense; Northwesterns first and only punt of the game came with about four minutes left. While Mason Rudolph and his receivers werent always on the same page, senior Quadarius Fair had another excellent outing, benefitting from the attention doled out to his cohorts Dupree Hart and Mustafia Love. Fair finished with 10 catches for 153 yards and two touchdowns.
Teams have got to decide, Richardson said. Thats kind of whats happened the last two weeks; theyve overplayed Dupree, which is back-to-back weeks hes scored on the same play. They jump Dupree and then (Fair) scoots out the backdoor.
Oddo was less technical in his assessment.
We just dont have the speed to cover those kids, he said. Theyre good.
Friday nights tilt was Catholics first against a Palmetto State opponent since 1996 when they thumped Indian Land, but the visitors fell behind 10-0 within the first six minutes due largely to a pair of expensive giveaways. Catholic quarterback Ryan Millers first passing attempt, on a play-action fake, was intercepted by Seargent and returned to the Cougars 10-yard line. Rudolph smashed in from a yard out several plays later for the first of his three 1-yard touchdowns.
Oddos team fell further behind after a long snap soared over punter Topher Klines head and Seargent plopped on him at the Cougars 18. The Catholic defense bowed though and held the Trojans to a 22-yard Sully Foy field goal.
Ditching the pass, Catholic got back to what it does best to cut the Trojans lead to 10-3. Hood ran the ball 10 times in a nearly 8-minute possession, but Northwestern stood up the visitors in the red zone, holding them to a 25-yard Kline field goal.
The score was tied just over a minute later. After marching the Trojans deep into the Catholic end, Rudolphs pass to Tori Adams was too hot, skipping off his hands and into the waiting arms of Sam Wolljung, who took the pick 77 yards the other way for a pick-six.
Northwestern reclaimed the lead before the midway recess, a smooth drive culminating in another Rudolph touchdown from 1 yard, and they held the advantage after Miller threw an ill-advised into double coverage and Mackey made him pay, intercepting the ball at the Northwestern 3 to squelch the danger.
When Northwestern scored within 51 seconds of the second half kickoff, the game was well and truly in the Trojans control. Rudolph found Love for a 15-yard catch and run, before Fair slipped into open space and scored on a 36-yard touchdown connection to make it 24-10. He scored his fifth touchdown of the season later in the quarter, catching a square-in route over the middle and bursting into open space for a 45-yard, Cougar-breaking touchdown.
Northwestern 38, Charlotte Catholic 17
NHS Sully Foy 22 yard field goal
NHS Mason Rudolph 1 run (Foy kick)
CCHS Topher Kline 25 yard field goal
CCHS Sam Wolljung 77 yard interception return (Kline kick)
NHS Rudolph 1 run (Foy kick)
NHS Quadarius Fair 36 pass from Rudolph (Foy kick)
NHS Rudolph 1 run (Foy kick)
CCHS Hood 1 run (Kline kick)
NHS Fair 45 pass from Rudolph (Foy kick)
RUSHING CCHS: Elijah Hood 36-190; Drew Tomsho 10-47; Ryan Miller 7-37; Colton Perry 4-11; Peyton Swancy 1-1; Topher Kline 1-0. NHS: Rudolph 10-39; Tori Adams 7-32; Dupree Hart 3-18; Julian Shockley 2-8.
PASSING CCHS: Miller 5-1-3. NHS: Rudolph 34-25-1.
RECEIVING CCHS: Tyler Pumeno 1-22. NHS: Quadarius Fair 10-153; Mustafia Love 6-50; Hart 6-28; Davion Blake 2-31; Adams 1-5.
RECORDS CCHS 1-1; NHS 1-0.
Bret McCormick • 329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T