2008 Prep Football: West Rowan preview
By Ronnie Gallagher
MOUNT ULLA ó There’s one thing that never seems to change around here. West Rowan is favored to win the North Piedmont Conference.
And coach Scott Young, entering his 11th season as head man in Mount Ulla, loves it.
“It’s better than being favored to lose it,” he chuckled.
The Falcons have won four straight titles, and a fifth is definitely a possibility. They’re coming off an 11-2 campaign and have a lot of senior starters.
But it’s a junior that’s the talk of the county.
K.P. Parks is back for what seems like his 10th season of running over, through and around defenders. The Sporting News has him listed as one of the nation’s top 50 juniors.
Last season, he had seven games of at least 200 yards on the ground, including a whopping 339 (and six touchdowns) against Northwest Cabarrus. He finished with 2,536 yards and 31 touchdowns on the season.
Just for the record, Parks has rushed for 4,257 yards in two seasons. It has the opponents on West’s schedule combining for one big, collective gulp.
“The neat thing about coaching a kid like K.P. is his work ethic,” Young said. “Some kids know they’re good and stop working. But he wants it. His goals are set.”
Young would like to get the 5-foot-7, 187-pound Parks 20-25 carries a game but added, “We’ll give it to him as many times as it takes West Rowan to be successful.”
Young has three capable quarterbacks who can do a lot more than just hand off to Parks.
Senior Brantley Horton, junior Jon Crucitti and sophomore B.J. Sherrill could all be starters about anywhere. So Young has a tough decision to make.
Horton is the returning starter. Even with Parks, the 6-2, 170-pounder still managed to throw for 898 yards last season.
“He’s a real bright kid,” Young said. “He understands what the defense is giving us and does a great job of getting our offense going.”
Sherrill is an all-around athlete.
“He throws a pretty ball,” Young said. “A lot of teams would like to go to war with a quarterback as talented as him.”
And then there’s the talented Crucitti, a transfer from Mooresville. He split time as a starter last season for the Blue Devils.
“Mechanically, he has been coached,” Young said of the 5-11, 170-pounder. “He has a strong arm.”
Young said the two that aren’t under center will be catching balls as receivers.
Crucitti is a very good punter as well.
“They’ll contribute in our offense somewhere,” Young said.
Jeremy Melchor, a backup last season, is expected to join Parks in the backfield. He’s 6-2, 185.
“We need him to be good,” Young said. “We need him to make blocks.”
Last year’s jayvee tailback Nolan Phillips and Coleman Phifer, a junior who was the jayvee fullback, are ready to help.
Phillips, a 5-8, 175-pounder, has been impressive.
“We hope there’s some situations where we can get him some carries,” Young said.
The top returning receiver is Johnathon Hill, who has grown to 6-3, 185. He should drastically improve on last year’s numbers (14 catches for 140 yards and one score).
“He looks like a college receiver,” Young said. “We’re looking for great things. He has pretty good hands and sometimes shows glimpses of great hands. I want him to be a safety blanket so those quarterbacks know they can go to him any time.”
Other receivers include Tim Flanagan, who moved from the backfield, Casey Reavis, Marquise Allison, Tamar McNeely and Josh Safrit.
Senior Dustin Davis and sophomore Patrick Hampton are the tight ends.
The offensive line is talented and experienced. Three senior starters return in tackle Timmy Pangburn (6-1, 300), center Garrett Teeter (6-0, 230) and guard Joseph Kerley (5-11, 190).
Teeter was all-county and Pangburn was all-conference.
“One of Teeter’s biggest assets is he plays hard,” Young said. “Kerley plays as hard as anybody we have.”
Pangburn is being heavily recruited. “We really expect him to be good,” Young said.
Ricky Moore (6-2, 225) moved from the defensive line to guard. Juniors John Jancic and Rodney Cline, along with sophomores Charles Holloway (5-11, 230) and Davon Quarles (5-10, 225), are in the mix.
Matt Turchin, a senior soccer player, will do the kicking.
The defensive line is strong, anchored by all-county and all-conference junior Chris Smith (6-3, 230) and senior Kenderic Dunlap (6-2, 265).
Smith moves inside to tackle from rush end.
“He has unlimited potential,” Young said. “If he’s not taking plays off, he’s almost unstoppable.”
Of Dunlap, Young said, “He’s athletic for his size. He had a great summer.”
They’ll be joined by 5-10, 250-pound junior Eli Goodson and 6-1, 230-pound senior Tyrell Tate. Seniors Daniel Spainhour and Brett Graham, as well as junior Jeremiah Robinson, will also play.”Eli is playing the best of all of them,” Young said. “We’re hoping Tate has a good senior year.”
West lost linebacker Robert Kepley but returns seniors Nate Dulin, Kameron Finchum (who moved in from Kentucky last year) and junior Josh Poe, a 6-2, 225-pounder who is in his third season on varsity. Emmanul Gbunblee is a sophomore off jayvees.
“Poe’s got a college body,” Young said. “I’m seeing some maturity out of him. Dulin’s the fastest linebacker. Finchum knows the system and should have a solid year.”
The big question mark is in the secondary, where West lost Rowan County defensive player of the year Justin Avery as well as all-county and all-conference Jordan Lilly to graduation. Senior Marco Gupton, a strong safety, is the only experienced returnee.
“He’s got a lot of thinking to do for a lot of folks,” assistant David Hunt said.
Hunt can also turn to Austin Greenwood, another converted running back, Matt Bishop, A.J. Little, Dylan Andrews, Desmond Shaver, Dominque Noble, Trey Mashore and Akeem Minter.
West has the talent to win its fifth straight title. That’s why Young always scoffs when people think West is a one man team (see Parks).
“One guy has never won a football game,” Young said. “K.P.’s a good back, but I’d like to think our offensive line did a good job of blocking. We’re blessed to have good players.
And a championship attitude.
“Expectations of winning helps everybody,” Young said. “I think it helps with confidence.”
And confidence is something that’s never lacking in Mount Ulla during football season.