Shaw column: Things have to get better for Fleming
MOUNT ULLA ó It was enough to make your head spin. Unless, of course, your name is Tasker Fleming.
North Rowan’s first-year coach could have demanded his money back at the gate Friday night, but he didnt.
He could have made excuses for the sub-standard blocking and tackling his Cavs turned in, a display that made his North debut memorable for all the wrong reasons.
But he didn’t.
Or he could have asked for our patience, a little time to season an inexperienced team into something with a bit more snap, crackle and pop than it showed against bound-for-glory West Rowan. But again, Fleming passed on the chance.
“We don’t have time,” he insisted, shortly after West dropped 60-0 anvil on North’s head. “It’s a short season. We’ve got 11 games to play and then the playoffs. We’ve got a home game next week to get ready for.”
At least Fleming and the Cavs are saying the right things. They’re talking a good game, despite playing a pathetic one.
“Embarrassing?” senior Lathan Charleston responded to a direct question. “This is very embarrassing. It’s not North Rowan football. We were expecting to give them a game, but I don’t know what happened.”
Part of the answer can be found in the numbers. North managed only six first downs and 45 yards total offense. Sophomore quarterback Jesse Rudisell was sacked six times ó five in the first half when he spent more time on his back than Michelangelo.
“I’m sure I looked like I was nervous,” he said with an apple-cheeked grin after passing for 80 yards. “Because I was. It was something to learn from. It can only get better and better from here.”
Defensively, the Cavs’ special teams allowed three touchdowns on punt and kick returns. Most damaging was the first, a 35-yard runback by West sophomore Trey Mashore late in the first quarter.
“That broke our back,” said Charleston. “It changed the whole momentum. After that they just started clicking on all cylinders and we couldn’t do anything about it.”
Before the period was over, all-solar system running back K.P. Parks led a 70-yard parade downfield on the first of his two TD runs. At least six North defenders got a hand on Parks and he sidestepped three would-be tacklers.
“Football is blocking and tackling,” Fleming said. “We had a lot of issues up front tonight where they were just beating us across the line on both sides of the ball. Makes it tough to compete.”
By halftime a game that had been scoreless late in the opening quarter was remarkably 43-0. It got even uglier when Mashore returned the second-half kickoff 83 yards for another score.
“Yeah, we had some rough spots,” said upbeat junior linebacker Vince Shropshire. “But that’s with everybody. It’s not what I expected, but nobody can predict the future. We’re definitely going to get better. I’ll put this one on me ó by this time next year, West Rowan will not beat North Rowan. And that’s a promise.”
And wishful thinking. West coach Scott Young made a poignant comment when told how well the Cavaliers were taking the loss.
“They should be happy,” he said. “They have some young talent, but they didn’t shy away. They could have just stopped playing, but they didn’t.”
Nor do they intend to.
“This is just the beginning,” said junior Sam Mauldin. “We’ve got a new coach, a new system and new players, so you’ve got to expect that. Maybe not this bad, but let the coach get used to his people and you’ll see us start hitting ’em hard.”
Then, with a bold display of macho, he added: “Comes conference time, you’ll be reading about us in the paper. Those guys (West Rowan) will be on the back burner and we’ll be on the front page.”
After watching last night’s debacle, you get the feeling that may take some time.