Prep Football: North Rowan 45, East Montgomery 13
By David Shaw
SPENCER - Before the season began Joe Nixon thought he had a pretty good team at North Rowan. It's beginning to look like he was right.
The Cavaliers have rewarded the first-year coach with four victories in six games, including Friday's 45-13 rout of visiting East Montgomery.
"We talked about this before the game," Nixon said after North improved to 2-0 in YVC play. "We need to start seeing where we're gonna be as a football team. And tonight, minus a couple plays here and there, I think we played an overall good game - and played it the way it's supposed to be played."
They played it with passion and force, with grit and glamour. If the Cavs weren't surprising East (2-4, 1-1) with daring passes across the middle, they were thumping it downfield on the ground. North finished with well-balanced 413 total yards, scored touchdowns on five of its first six possessions and had the game salted away before the homecoming king and queen were crowned at halftime,
"We just had to execute our game plan," sophomore quarterback Alexis Archie said after passing for 210 yards and four touchdowns. "We had to stay focused, have fun but play the game."
Archie was guarded liked a medieval castle by North's offensive line in the opening half, when the Cavs jumped to a 32-0 lead. He air-mailed two TD passes to wideout Sakil Harrison (5 receptions, 140 yards, 3 touchdowns) and another to Mike Connor, who took a swing pass in the left flat and broke several tackles on a 24-yard scoring play. Teammate Jareke Chambers (128 yards on 12 carries), the sophomore tailback who quietly has nine touchdowns, also scored on a couple of stall-busting runs.
Then there was North's defense, which forced three turnovers and held EM to 76 yards in the first half. Trae Clark, Kasaun Coney and Xavier Robinson each intercepted passes thrown by losing quarterback Avery Jackson, while defensive linemen Oshon West and Cecil McCauley repeatedly rattled him out of his comfort zone. "We dominated on both sides," said Robinson, who also confiscated a third-quarter fumble. "We out-physicaled them."
Nixon said it was all part of a well-devised game plan. "We emphasized the need to start fast," he said. "With our athletes, we wanted to get the ball in their hands as many times as we could and go score."
East coach Phil Collett lamented about his team's lengthy injury list and referenced a listless week of practice, but his tone changed when the subject switched to North's performance.
"They're an excellent team with no weaknesses," he said after the blowout. "They have solid players in every spot. We couldn't handle them up front on either side of the ball. They were big and strong and fast and well-coached. I'd like to see the team that beats them."
The Cavs aren't unbeatable, illustrated by their sloppy play in the third period when they lost fumbles on consecutive possessions. But they continued to bring the heat, scoring touchdowns on their next two opportunities.
"Even if we were at full strength and had a good week of practice, I'm not sure the score would have been any different," Collett said. "They were that good."
Harrison, who snagged a 23-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter, became the first North receiver to reach the end zone this season.
"I just knew I was in the read," he said with a 150-watt smile afterward. "(Archie) can see it all. Three touchdowns. It hasn't hit me yet. I know it's there, but it hasn't hit me."
Archie completed 10 of 15 attempts and has now tossed six TD passes. Most impressive was his 46-yard strike to Harrison on a third-and-long play late in the second quarter.
"He had a great game tonight," Nixon gushed. "He stood in the pocket, delivered the ball to the right receivers and made great reads. He led our offense like a quarterback is supposed to."