Prep Football: Albemarle 29, North Rowan 22
By Mike London
SPENCER - North Rowan Cavaliers bolted from their locker room quickly after Friday's 29-22 loss to Albemarle, their dismay and disappointment too great to bear.
When North fought and lost close to West Rowan at Eagle Stadium on Sept. 7, the Cavaliers were almost happy.
When North fought and lost close to Albemarle four weeks later, however, the Cavaliers were devastated.
Sometimes progress is measured in unconventional ways, but, painful as it was, this was another step forward for coach Joe Nixon's team.
Maybe they were surprised they could play with West Rowan, but they expected to beat Albemarle right up until the scoreboard informed them they were out of time.
"We battled right down to the end tonight," Nixon said. "Can't fault anyone's effort. We keep knocking on the door, that door is going to open eventually, and we're going to start winning games like this."
Albemarle coach Danny Akins, drained but proud, didn't disagree with Nixon.
"North Rowan is really young, but they're good, and they're coming," he said. "Coach Nixon knows what he's doing. They have speed and they have size and they have discipline. Everyone better watch out because that team is going deep in the playoffs."
Albemarle (7-1, 4-0) basically won another YVC championship by holding off North (5-3, 3-1) and is again a 1AA state-championship contender.
Albemarle QB Deon Christian was the difference. His tackle-dodging scoring run in the second quarter was the play of the game.
"It's just his third year playing football and his second as a quarterback," Akins said. "But he's a very special athlete."
Kevin McKinney rushed for 121 yards for the Bulldogs. North's sophomore QB Alexis Archie threw for 160 yards and two TDs, but he was picked off three times and North was limited to 66 rushing yards.
Albemarle drove hard on its first possession. North stiffened in the red zone, but Julio Cisnero's field goal gave the visitors a 3-0 lead.
North answered. Archie hit two big pass plays to Shakil Harrison, as the Cavaliers marched. Archie made a physical 8-yard run for the TD, but he hurt his leg and that hampered him the rest of the way.
With Albemarle down 8-3, Christian made a tremendous scramble. He tightroped the sideline, raced 55 yards, and the Bulldogs led 9-8.
Albemarle scored again on its next possession for a 16-8 lead, but Archie passed 22 yards to Michael Connor for a key first down and hit Connor again for a 17-yard TD.
Kasuan Coney came very close to a two-point conversion that would've tied the game. North fans wanted it. Officials ruled Coney was an inch short.
North made a huge mistake on special teams late in the half. A roughing-the-punter penalty, followed by an unsportsmanlike conduct flag for protesting the call, moved the ball 30 yards, and McKinney punched in the TD that gave the Dogs a 23-14 halftime lead.
North's offense sputtered in the second half, but Michael Robinson blocked an Albemarle punt late in the third quarter to set up an Archie TD pass to Jareke Chambers. After Chambers flipped over tacklers for six points, he tacked on a two-point conversion, and North trailed 23-22.
With 2:32 left, Jay Dockery picked off an Archie pass.
With Albemarle facing fourth-and-1 at the North 9 with a minute left, Akins called timeout. Then Christian hit Alvin Currie for a touchdown.
"You'd like to just get the first down and run out the clock," Akins said. "But they were putting everyone up front and it was going to be tough to get that yard. We called the dump pass and got the score, and we'll always take a score."
Xavier Robinson returned Albemarle's kickoff past midfield and a facemask penalty moved the ball to the Albemarle 34. North had time, but a dropped pass hurt, and Martinus Crump picked off Archie to seal Albemarle's victory.