Friday Night Hero: West Rowan's Kiero Cuthbertson
By Ronnie Gallagher
MOUNT ULLA - Assistant coach Ralph Ellis says Kiero Cuthbertson is the senior leader of the West Rowan defensive line and the 6-foot-2, 250-pound tackle is taking it literally.
"To have that title, it feels good," Cuthbertson said. "I do all I can to make sure the boys keep their heads right."
Mission accomplished after Cuthbertson and the defense recorded their third straight shutout in a 53-0 regular-season finale win over West Iredell on Friday, giving the Falcons a county-best 9-2 record heading into the postseason Friday.
Cuthbertson admitted he and his defensive teammates are playing angry and have been since a 13-7 loss to East Rowan that ended West's 44-game win streak in the county. Since then, the Falcons have outscored four opponents 172-6.
"We felt like we needed to send a message to everybody and get our respect back," Cuthbertson said. "After that tough loss to East, it brought us down a little bit. But our run defense got better and our pass defense got better."
It was all on display Friday against the Warriors. Minus-30 yards rushing. Nine yards passing. Only three first downs.
Cuthbertson, the stud tackle, showed his leadership on the field, making three important plays. He had a fumble recovery, a quarterback sack and a batted-down pass.
Going into Friday's game, teams had been keying on Cuthbertson, which resulted in some changes.
"We put in some special things for them cracking back on him," Ellis said. "So he was out in the areas to make some plays."
Cuthbertson made an immediate impact, recovering a fumble that led to West's first score.
"I saw (Matthew) Choi hit the running back's hand and the first thing in my mind was to get the team's first turnover and give the offense a chance to score," Cuthbertson said.
There was a sack to remember.
"Their quarterback is their best athlete," Cuthbertson pointed out. "I had to make sure I kept (containment). That's what we worked on all week."
The batted down pass was a bit of a disappointment because he didn't catch the ball. Every defensive lineman dreams of the pick.
"I wanted it to be an interception," Cuthbertson said with a grin. "He threw to the flat but it was too far from me to get two hands on it."
Cuthbertson said he's taking the final part of his career seriously, as any senior leader would.
"Me, (Logan) Stoodley and Choi - it's our job to make sure this team becomes more of a family," he said.
Cuthbertson would also love nothing better than to get a second meeting with East Rowan. Whether that happens is still up in the air, but regardless of who the Falcons play, he is going to be counted on.
"It's his time," coach Scott Young said. "He led us throughout the spring and he's had a really consistent senior year."
Which included his performance against West Iredell.
"He was extremely active with quarterback hurries," Young said. "His big plays really led to a monster game."
Young - and Cuthbertson - think there are more monster games to come.