Friday Night Hero: East Rowan's Dustin Mowery
My Mike London
GRANITE QUARRY - It wasn't his guy.That's the most extraordinary thing about East Rowan linebacker Dustin Mowery's game-ending, game-saving, streak-stopping tackle at the 1-yard line on Friday. "No, it wasn't Mowery's responsibility, so it's not going to be his fault if the guy scores," East coach Danny Misenheimer said. "The easiest thing in the world would've been for him to slow up." East won a game that could alter the Rowan County football landscape because Mowery didn't slow up. East's defense had been on the field the whole second half. Mowery was exhausted. His head was aching from a collision. But he made history because he never puts on the brakes. "Yeah, I was tired on that last play," Mowery said with a grin. "I don't know about our other guys. Maybe they're in better shape than me." On the strength of a second-quarter TD by Calvin Edwards and a third-quarter pick-six by Donte Means, East led West Rowan 13-7 as the clock ticked toward zeros, West Rowan quarterback Tyler Stamp took the final, fateful snap, and white-jerseyed Falcons flooded on 20-yard routes, still believing they would find a way to win. As frantic as those last ticks were, Mowery knew his job, and he handled it. He covered a running back racing down the middle of the field, but then he let him go just in time. Some sixth sense told him there was trouble way off to his left, and he went flying toward it. If Mowery had hesitated, West ties the game and East loses, because West's Zack Russell doesn't miss extra points. If Mowery had not sprinted full-out in a straight line to precisely the spot on the field that he had to get to, East loses. "Sometimes it's best not to think and just fly around," Mowery said. Stamp had three turnovers, but what he did on that last play was magnificent. He set his feet like Matt Ryan and calmly sent a strike whistling toward Brandon Ijames, his best receiver. East cornerback Means gambled for the breakup, catapulting through the air in a vain dive. As Ijames, with perfect concentration, cradled the ball into his arms at the 2 and turned toward the East end zone, Means was prone on the ground, out of the play. But Ijames never had a chance to lean or dive or cut or think. As he turned, Mowery, who had arrived from nowhere, like he'd been beamed in from the Starship Enterpise, met him with all the pent-up fury of more than a decade of being crushed by West. Ijames crumpled to the grass, and elated Mustangs jumped up and down. West's 11-year. 44-game county streak was over. It was time to dump Gatorade on Misenheimer. "The coaches told me I turned my hips just right and ran," Mowery said. "They told me I made a textbook football play." Mowery's mad dash defied rational explanation. Maybe it was luck. Maybe it was instincts. Maybe it was just being a very good football player. "He's a physical kid with a tremendous motor," Misenheimer said. "He's everything you could want in a linebacker. He's always been willing to take someone's head off, and now he's getting more of an understanding of the game." East's defensive effort Friday was non-stop, and Mowery was in the middle of it. The saving tackle was his 11th solo stop, and he had four assists. He forced a fumble to stop a West drive when he hit Stamp near midfield. He also had a sack and hurried Stamp twice. "Our entire team played with a tremendous will to win," Misenheimer said. "But as well as we played, we still lose if one kid doesn't run to the football. That tackle could be a defining moment for our program. That tackle means we're still competing for a conference championship."