Prep Football: West Rowan 29, North Rowan 22: Falcons win 43rd straight county game
By Mike London
SPENCER — West Rowan weathered a howling, green storm to win its 43rd consecutive game against county opponents on Friday, but it was North Rowan that made the statement.
The Cavaliers, if there was still any lingering doubt, are back, folks.
West’s 29-21, hold-on-for-dear-life victory behind three Desmond Jackson touchdowns was greeted with sighs of relief by its vast fan base — and its players.
“It was tough,” West defensive lineman Teoz Mauney said. “It was like our backs were to the wall the whole second half.”
North fans, dormant for most of a decade, shook buildings in downtown Spencer with a stirring volume of noise.
“We’re not looking for morale victories,” North’s first-year coach Joe Nixon said. “But I was very proud of the way our kids fought back in the second half. They left everything out there.”
Ranked sixth in 3A, West (4-0) controlled a business-as-usual first half with its fierce defense and pound-it-out offense and built a seemingly safe 22-0 lead, but it was North sophomores Alexis Archie and Jareke Chambers, who created the excitement in the second half.
Several Falcons broke up a pass by Archie on fourth-and-2 at the West 3-yard line with 1:35 remaining. Until then, 1A North (2-2) was within reach of a monumental upset.
“And I don’t think it was a case of us just giving things away,” West coach Scott Young said. “North created a lot.”
The crowd was staggeringly huge, fueled jointly by West’s sustained success and North’s revival. But the stage appeared too big for the Cavaliers in the first half.
“We came out a little big-eyed,” Nixon said. “West is an elite 3A team in this state, but once we figured out they put their pants on the same as us, we were OK.”
Chambers fumbled on his first two touches, and the Falcons recovered both.
Jackson punched in his first TD run after West grabbed a fumble at the North 9.
Then West added 15 points in a three-minute span in the second quarter. Between scoring runs by Jackson and Raykwon Torrence, North had a disastrous snap on a punt attempt that resulted in a safety.
“After all that, North could’ve mailed it in,” Young said. “But they didn’t.”
North’s offense was stuffed completely in the first half, and partly because of that 31-yard loss on the punt attempt, the Cavaliers had minus-47 yards rushing at the break.
“What we talked about at halftime was we should be in this game,” Archie said. “We knew it would be a fight coming in, and it was time to stop backing off from that fight. We decided to man up.”
West had three turnovers on special teams in the second half, and that’s how and why momentum turned. Two of the three were hotly disputed.
West lost possession on a third-quarter punt when North lineman Will Robertson hit the returner as he was trying to catch the ball, and Xavier Partee recovered.
Nixon said Robertson “timed it up perfectly.”
Young was certain it was a penalty. “A clear violation of the halo rule,” he said.
That turnover changed field position for good, and North used a short field and an Archie TD run to make it 22-7.
When West punter Harrison Baucom threw a on faked punt, T.J. Allen picked the ball off and his return set up North’s second TD. It was 22-13, as the third quarter ended, and North had all the momentum.
Tyler Stamp’s 32-yard scoring pass to Jackson accounted for most of West’s second-half offense and made it 29-13 with 9:13 remaining, but North just kept coming.
A roughing-the-passer flag helped North drive again, and Chambers broke tackles on a 29-yard pass play to make it 29-19. Archie’s two-point conversion run made it an eight-point game with 5:17 to go.
North got the ball at the West 34 when it got a favorable bounce and call on an onside kick near the North sideline, but this time West held.
“We missed tackles and we missed assignments,” West defensive end Matthew Choi said. “But we got the win.”