Prep Football: North Friday Night Hero
SPENCER — Like the rest of his teammates, North Rowan receiver Cameron Sifford woke up on Tuesday morning as a member of the state’s top-ranked 2A team.
The NCPreps and Carolina Preps polls proclaimed the Cavaliers (4-0) as the new No.1 on Monday.
The Associated Press officially added its coronation of the Cavaliers on Tuesday. The Cavaliers racked up 11 out of a possible 13 first-place votes in the prestigious, statewide AP poll, following a Black Friday for the state’s 2A powers. The Cavaliers, who had been ranked sixth, were the only team in the AP top 10 to win.
North beat Davie 28-13, and while it was closer than 28-13 sounds, it was still a very solid victory by a 2A club against a competent 4A team that had destroyed Lexington, one of North’s Central Carolina rivals, the previous week.
“Davie is a good team, and they’ll have a good season,” Sifford said. “It was another good win for us, and it made us 4-0 for the first time since 1998.”
Sifford knows his North history. What he may not know is that the 1998 North team he referenced lost to Nick Maddox and A.L. Brown in Week 5.
North hasn’t been 5-0 since 1994, when it won its first 10 before losing a monumental overtime game with Albemarle, also 10-0, in the final week of the regular season.
The current Cavs figure to move to 5-0 when they visit Providence Grove (1-3) on Friday. If they stay healthy, they’ll be favored in all their regular-season contests. There’s a long, long way to go, but it’s worth mentioning that North hasn’t run the table in the regular season since 1985.
“The kids know where they’re ranked,” second-year head coach Joe Nixon said quietly. “They’re not worried about the ranking. Right now, we’re just trying to get better. Right now, we’re just trying to find a way to beat Providence Grove.”
North found a way to beat Davie Friday, even though Davie, powered by workhorse running back Cade Carney, led 7-0 in the first half before North blocked a punt for a special-teams touchdown.
Davie wasn’t done. The War Eagles grabbed a 13-7 lead early in the second half, and Davie’s defense had North backed up inside its 20.
“It was tough running the ball against Davie,” Nixon said. “The only way we were going to win was by making plays in the passing game.”
Sifford and quarterback Jareke Chambers, the stellar running back who moved to quarterback when Alexis Archie was injured, made one.
Chambers rolled to his right where North had two receivers available at different depths. Sifford was running a post route.
“We ran a high/low on the cornerback, and Jareke made the right read and got the ball to Sifford,” Nixon said. “Then Sifford just out-ran everybody.”
Sifford hadn’t been a big factor to that point and was anxious to redeem himself.
“I’d kind of dropped some balls earlier,” he said. “But on that play, I was wide open, and I saw Jareke throw it. All I could think of was that I just had to catch this one. I caught it, I saw green, and I took off.”
Sifford didn’t stop sprinting until he’d crossed the Davie goal line with 8:37 left in the third quarter. The game-changing play covered 85 yards. Trae Clark kicked the PAT. North led 14-13, and the Cavaliers never looked back.
And now a program that was 4-8 as recently as 2011 and a program that was outscored by 200 points while going winless on the field just five years ago, is now ranked No. 1 in the state.
“We have talked a little bit about that,” Sifford said. “The important thing is to keep working just as hard as we have been to stay at No. 1. It’s nice to be No. 1 now, but what we really want is to be playing in December.”
With players like Sifford, the Cavaliers might do it.
“He’s a great kid and he’s a good student,” Nixon said. “He comes to work every day and he makes big catches.”