Ronnie Gallagher column: Doubting just fuels West's fire
RALEIGH — Crest played Burns early in the season and the Chargers lost 33-12.
So when Crest head coach Mark Barnes was looking at the NCHSAA football pairings earlier this month, he noticed the three teams from Cleveland County first.
“We thought Shelby had a good bracket and thought Burns had a good bracket,” Barnes said Monday at the state championship press conference in the Vaughn Towers at Carter-Finley Stadium.
“But we kinda penciled in the West Rowan game that would decide whether you get a chance to play (for the championship).”
Considering West Rowan coach Scott Young was sitting at the same table as Barnes, we know who won. The Falcons made its fourth consecutive 3A title game by beating Burns in the Western final, 33-7.
“It was a good matchup for Scott,” Barnes said. “They were a little more physical, probably, than Burns.”
The best part of the win was Young’s interview afterward on WBTV. It was great theater. He pointed out people actually considered his team an underdog and barked, “That fueled our fire.”
West entered the season on a nation’s best 46-game win streak but the fire wasn’t there in a season-opening loss at Mooresville.
“It hurts real bad,” said tailback Dinkin Miller, who was held to 85 yards.
Now, fast forward to Friday night. Like the opener, Miller was sought out again by reporters.
“People keep saying this is a different team from the three that won state championships,” Miller said. “But it’s still the same team. Only the faces are different.”
Miller ran for 266 yards, hurdling players and running over them.
So, Coach, what happened between Week 1 and Week 15?
“Nothing happened,” Young insisted. “We just kept our nose to the grindstone and kept improving. Good things happen to people who are willing to work for it.”
Win or lose Saturday, it will be a year that no one in these parts will forget. At one time, West was 2-2 and there were a lot of questions — and snickers from those not wearing blue.
The Falcons ran through all county and North Piedmont foes to keep humongous streaks alive. Young suffered a heart attack right before the regular season finale. Statesville knew it was going to topple West in the second round. Didn’t happen. Same thing from Concord in the third round. Didn’t happen.
Burns was favored by 16 points but again, Young was the coach who survived and came to Raleigh on Monday.
And no one enjoyed himself more than Young as he was surrounded by 15 other coaches going for a state title, and a horde of media.
“It’s great to see all these guys and all the familiar faces,” Young beamed. “You wish all the guys the best. Unfortunately, only half of us will win and half will lose. We have to figure out how to be in the half that wins.”
Young was escorted to a chair in front of Time-Warner cameras. Nate and Brian of WBTV did their thing. The camera from WSOC was waiting. Then, it was off to a table for the radio and newspaper guys.
“It never gets old,” Young grinned. “This is why we do what we do. It’s why you spend our summers in Hoover, Alabama. It’s why you spend your summers down at Panthers’ Stadium.
He explained that three straight titles meant a lot because no one had ever done it in 3A.
But a fourth?
“It puts us in some elite company that (Charlotte) Independence is in.”
Independence won seven straight crowns.
Crest’s Barnes knows a little about title streaks. His brother, Darryl, won three straight at Richmond County, then got into administration before coming back to win two straight.
Barnes said it’s hard enough to win one title, “but to do it multiple times ... it’s hard to keep doing it. You keep getting everybody’s best shot. Kids can become a little big-headed. Scott and his staff have done a great job making sure that doesn’t happen.”
With one game left for No. 4, that won’t be a problem.
“I just never want to doubt my kids,” Young said.
And if you do, Young will remind you that simply fuels the Falcons’ fire. It made Monday’s press conference probably the most enjoyable of the four the 40-year-year old has attended.
“I love my life,” he said.
It was easy to tell.
Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or email@example.com.