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Bowton column: North takes a pass on air game for now

By Nick Bowton
nbowton@salisburypost.com
SPENCER ó Fans showing up at North Rowan have grown to count on at least one constant the past 15 years: The Cavaliers will put the ball in the air. Then they’ll throw it some more.
Former coach Roger Seacrest introduced a pass-first offense with Mitch Ellis in 1993. A long line of standout quarterbacks followed, with such names as Mario Sturdivant, Graham Hosch, Alfonzo Miller, Sakelo Lilly and Daniel Griffith setting records.
In fact, the five highest single-game passing marks in county history all belong to North quarterbacks.
First-year North coach Tasker Fleming knows all about North’s pass-happy history. He also knows this season likely won’t add to it.
With its varsity starter, varsity back-up and junior varsity starter all gone from last year, a team with a new coach this season and a new conference and classification next season will also have a new-look offense.
“We probably could have stayed that way if some experience had been in place at quarterback,” said Fleming, whose Cavaliers will drop to 1A next season. “But that’s not something that’s acquired by chance ó you have to work at it. When you got a first-year player and a kid moved out of position, we can’t just throw them to the wolves and expect them to throw it 40 times a game like North has been known to do.
“It’s been very successful for North Rowan back to Seacrest. Back in those days, that was an innovative offense and ahead of its time in high school. He established something that the school has been proud to be identified with.”

Fleming, of course, doesn’t want to undermine that pride. In just more than a month on the job, he has embraced North’s tradition and expressed a desire to restore some luster to the program in Spencer.
Really, though, he doesn’t have a choice when it comes to his initial offensive gameplan: His inaugural team has to be run-first.
Varsity starter Cameron Wood was a senior last season. Varsity backup O’Bryan Graham is now at Salisbury. Junior varsity starter Marquis Weddington? He’s at East Rowan.
That leaves Fleming with senior Daniel King, who didn’t play at North last season and was a jayvee receiver the year before that, and sophomore Jesse Rudisell, who spent last season as a jayvee receiver/defensive back.
“I hope that at some point we can return to a level of that at quarterback and receiver,” Fleming said, referring again to North’s typical offense. “But the talent kind of dictates what you’re able to do. I just didn’t see the experience there to define us as a total passing team right off the bat.
“We might evolve into that, but we’ll see.”

Whether the Cavs do indeed revert to their pass-heavy offense will likely depend on the progress of either Rudisell or King.
Rudisell appears to have the edge and looks strong despite a 5-foot-7, 145-pound frame.
“They tried to let me play quarterback last year, but I wasn’t down for it,” he said. “It’s just a new challenge for me where I can get my team to where we want to be.”
Rudisell’s willingness to switch positions has already earned him praise from Fleming.
“A kid like Jesse Rudisell coming up from the jayvees, he stepped in at quarterback when all of our other quarterbacks kind of left us,” Fleming said. “That’s something that is just priceless to the program to have a kid that can change positions without even questioning why and step in and just work to learn to get better.
“He’s definitely putting the team above himself.”
Rudisell’s teammates will have to join him in that mind-set for North to be successful this season. The Cavalier fans will have to get used to a new brand of football as well.
Senior wideout Lathan Charleston, the Cavs‚ top returning receiver and one of their top overall threats, said the fans shouldn’t have a problem with an offense that doesn’t produce 250-yard passing games on a regular basis.
“They’ll adapt to the offense,” he said. “They’ll adapt to it well. Get some of the old North Rowan back, running all the sweeps and stuff.”

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