Prep Football: Central Davidson 29, North Rowan 20
By Mike London
SPENCER ó Central Davidson’s Brett Woodard made the catch in stride, and there was no one in gold between him and the end zone at Eagle Stadium.
Woodard sprinted away from North Rowan’s Andrew Blakeney, who abandoned his futile pursuit at the North 30. Blakeney searched for flags, but there were none.
Central quarterback Kirk Brown and Woodard hit the Cavaliers with a stunning 99-yard pass play in the third quarter that keyed the Spartans’ 29-20 CCC victory and pushed North a giant step closer to its first winless season since 1958.
North (0-9, 0-5) couldn’t break through despite 191 rushing yards by Vince Shropshire and another tenacious performance by defensive beast Javon Hargrave.
“We did some things good, and some things we didn’t do as good as we needed to do to win,” North coach Tasker Fleming said. “Central played a hard game. The first half they executed better than us, but the second half was even.”
Well, except for that 99-yard play.Hamstrung in the first half by turnovers and penalties, North played better in the third quarter and had some momentum when a nice punt by Jon Robertson pinned Central (4-5, 2-3) against its goal line.
But Brown and Woodard answered with six sudden points on the next snap and stretched the lead to 23-6.
“Coach (Eugene) Everhart made a nice call there ó what can you say?” Fleming said. “It was a good call because everybody thought they’d try to grind it out.”
Everhart figured the play was more basic than brilliant.
“Well, I looked at it as an easy call,” he said. “If they pick it, that’s still as good as a punt from where we were. We had a matchup out there we liked, and all three elements of our passing game were clicking. We were protecting, we were throwing it, and we were catching it.”
North didn’t lack effort, but it couldn’t get out of its own way in the first half.
When Lathan Charleston motored for a 67-yard punt return, he probably already knew there was a flag behind him somewhere ó and sure enough, there was.
Shropshire trampled stacks of Spartans, but he fumbled when North had a golden opportunity to score late in the first half. Taking a handoff from Jesse Rudisell on first-and-10 from the 12, he lost the handle at the 5.
North was down 12-0 at the half against the injury-riddled Spartans, who lost 60-0 to Salisbury.
North trailed 15-0 when Shropshire broke a 74-yard run to the 1, and Rudisell scored on a sneak with 5:09 left in the third quarter.
“We came out really slow,” North tackle Josh Young said. “But we had more things clicking on offense tonight than we’ve had, and we had a good halftime talk. Then things got pretty emotional after our onsides kick.”
Rudisell’s touchdown was followed by a successful onsides kick that triggered a melee and a lengthy delay as officials sorted out unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and ejections.
With two minutes left in the quarter, Rudisell’s third-down pass that could have produced a TD was dropped, and Robertson punted to the Central 1. But that just set up Brown’s pass to Woodard.
Brown had a spectacular night, throwing for 267 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for two more scores.
“We were able to run the ball just enough to keep them honest, and Brown did a nice job throwing against a defense that’s as good as any in our league,” Everhart said. “Their No. 32 (Hargrave) is no doubt the best defensive player in our league.”
North scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter for a season-high 20 points.
“We’re winless,” Fleming said. “But we’re not heartless.”
Charleston, who also made a pick, caught a tipped ball for a 28-yard TD and Shropshire had a 46-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter.
The last straw for North came when Central, leading by nine points, decided to go for it on fourth-and-inches in its own territory with five minutes remaining.
Brown appeared stopped at the line and North fans roared, but when the ball was spotted, Central somehow had another first down.