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Prep Football: West Iredell 34, East Rowan 21

By Nick Bowton
nbowton@salisburypost.com
GRANITE QUARRY ó The East Rowan defense lined up on fourth-and-goal with less than a minute remaining in the first half Friday night.
Stop West Iredell and maintain momentum. Let the Warriors score and, well, watch something like this happen.
West Iredell tied the game with a touchdown just before halftime, and everything went downhill from there for East. The Warriors capitalized on a bevy of Mustang miscues in the second half and won 34-21 in the NPC opener for both teams.
“Lack of focus, lack of maturity is the way I would describe our second half,” East coach Brian Hinson said. “With bone-headed mistakes.”
All of that came after a first half in which East controlled the clock and looked like the better team.
Thomas Lowe gave the Mustangs (1-2) a 7-0 lead with a 1-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter, and Ben DeCelle answered a three-play West Iredell scoring drive with a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.A touchdown-saving tackle at the 1-yard line by Jordan Moore gave East a chance to keep momentum, and the Mustangs’ chances looked good when they backed the Warriors up to the 4 with about 30 seconds remaining in the half.
On fourth down, however, West Iredell quarterback and Wake Forest commit Quan Rucker found P.J. Clyburn on a quick slant to tie the game at 14-all.
“That would have been a huge stop,” said DeCelle, a safety/wide receiver. “There was two minutes left on the clock, they had a long offensive drive, and we were getting worn down there at the end.
“We just said one more play. They punched it in.”
And kept punching it in.
After halftime, the Mustangs continuously hurt themselves with turnovers and penalties. West Iredell, meanwhile, produced big play after big play.
The Warriors rushed for just 39 yards in the first half, but they topped that total on their first running play of the third quarter when Devin Miller made about five Mustangs miss on a 61-yard touchdown run.
East’s response? A fumble.
The Mustangs began the game with turnovers on their first two drives, and they started the third quarter the same way. East finished with five turnovers, fumbled another time that it recovered and had two other fumbles on which referees ruled the runner down.
“Any turnovers with that group of athletes they have on offense is gonna hurt you,” Hinson said. “They just know how to score. (Rucker’s) not going to Wake for no reason. He’s a special kid. And (Clyburn) is gonna be playing big-time football one day, and (Miller) is pretty darn good too.”
Don’t forget about L.J. Harper.
A back-up running back, Harper rushed for 141 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. His second score, from 59 yards out, put West Iredell ahead 34-14 with 7:51 left.
“We’re a football team where we need touches offensively,” West Iredell coach Mark Weycker said. “We’re not generally gonna be that team that needs a 12-play drive to score. Every time we snap the football with the weapons we have, we’ve got the threat of putting it in the end zone.”
DeCelle provided that type of threat for East, as he returned another kickoff 72 yards and had five catches for 77 yards. But untimely penalties and all of those turnovers kept East’s defense on the field most of the second half.
The Mustangs got within 34-21 on a 36-yard touchdown catch by Moore, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty extended the Warriors’ next drive and effectively ended East’s chances for a comeback.

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