By BONITTA BEST
DURHAM - After going winless in 2009, Northern Durham was just looking to get the monkey of its back in '10. The Knights did that in the second week of the season by defeating Rocky Mount.
After losing three straight games, Northern has reversed its fortunes with a three-game winning streak and a first-place tie atop the PAC-6 with Durham Hillside after defeating Durham Riverside 41-28 and spoiling the Pirates homecoming.
"We had a great offseason and the guys are really coming together," said running back Xavier Taylor who rushed for 103 of the Knights 192 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
But it wasn't all offense, despite the high sore. Northern's defense held the penalty-riddled Pirates to just 26 rushing yards and intercepted quarterback Josh Evans four times.
"Our offense made the big plays when they needed to and our defense was able to stop them when it counted," Northern coach Anthony Sullivan said. "This rivalry goes way back and records mean nothing."
The Knights made it look easy in the first quarter, scoring on its first two possessions: a draining 14-play, 65-yard drive that took up almost 7 minutes and ended when Taylor scooted 8 yards up the middle. Taylor made it 13-0 on a 3-yard run after another long drive.
Before the Pirates could catch their breaths, Evans was intercepted by Anthony Burton who rumbled 35 yards for a 20-0 Northern lead - still in the first quarter.
But the Pirates (1-1, 1-6) fought their way back. Riverside put together its best drive of the first half with running back Shea Green diving in from the 2 to trail 20-7 at halftime.
The Pirates hit pay dirt first in the third quarter on an Evans-to-Khourtne Whitted 20-yard connection to close to within six. But the Knights (3-0, 4-4) countered right back on another time-consuming drive that saw Taylor dive in from the 1 for a 13-point lead with 8:49 left in the game. Northern put any chance of a comeback out of reach when QB Charah Wheeler caught DeAngelo Hopkins from 19 yards out.