Friday Night Hero: North Rowan's Eugene Coney
By Ryan Bisesi
SPENCER - North Rowan has been a program in transition for the past nine months and so has linebacker Eugene Coney.
Coney was a safety for the early part of his Cavalier career, now he's part of the two-headed monster at linebacker of a defense that posted its first shutout in a 39-0 win against North Moore last week. While the Cavalier offense has brought back memories of the "Airport" days, Coney and Xavier Robinson are key cogs in a unit that's keeping the team sound on both sides of the ball. Change has worked out well for the Cavs and Coney.
"Eugene is about as important as coach [Joe] Nixon," North defensive coordinator Stevie Williams said. "Him and Xavier are probably the two smartest kids out there. They know the defense front and back. He can line us up and he shows up to work every day."
Coney was a defensive back the last two years before being moved to LB, a move that's suited Coney and the Cavs well. He was all over the field in Friday's win and a big contributor in earlier games. The coaching staff commends Coney as a leader in work ethic and praises his intuitiveness on the field.
"He's not overly big or overly strong, but he can run," Nixon said. "He's a very smart kid and he has a knack for the football. He was all over the field Friday night."
The Cavs' success is a reward for Coney and the rest of the seniors, who played through a 4-8 season last year. Coming to practice is fun-filled so far this season as North sits 5-2 overall and 3-0 in conference play. NR made the long trip to Robbins in a chartered bus, but the Cavs certainly haven't gone soft.
In YVC play, North has outscored its foes by almost 100 points with a 126-27 margin. That dominance resumed against North Moore, where the Cavs only needed to run 17 plays in a weather-shortened contest that ended after the second-half kickoff.
The Cavs face their most important test yet in Albemarle on Friday in a game that has infinite YVC implications. Albemarle (6-1, 3-0), boasts five state 1A titles in the last 11 years and is ranked sixth in the AP state poll. North is currently unranked but almost certainly will find a spot with a win Friday.
"We're pumped about it, but coach wants us to be business-like," Coney said. "We're going to have to play hard."
Coney, who runs a 4.5 40-yard dash, is 5-foot-11 and 172 pounds. His speed was the determining factor in his position shift. He was one of several Cavs to swap roles, such as T.J. Allen moving from quarterback to safety.
"At first it was kind of hard," said Coney."Coney is also a big factor on special teams, where North has scored four touchdowns, two of which came from brother Kasaun Coney.
"Coach Nixon is coming out here and making us work hard and we're going at it," Coney said.