Prep Football: West Rowan 23, Lake Norman 17, 2 OTs
By Nick Bowton
MOUNT ULLA ó West Rowan quarterback B.J. Sherrill flung the football as high as the top of the goalposts, hopping from teammate to teammate in the back of the end zone while the rest of the Falcons mobbed each other on the sideline.
West wasn’t celebrating a playoff victory or an NPC title or anything like that ó just a late-season victory against middle-of-the-pack Lake Norman.
But the Falcons celebrated so joyously Monday night because they’d just survived two overtimes against a team known for playing up to the level of more-talented opponents. Sherrill’s 1-yard quarterback sneak gave West a 23-17 victory after the fourth quarter ended with the game tied at 10.
“They’re a Jekyll and Hyde team,” West coach Scott Young said of the Wildcats. “You watch them on tape vs. Mooresville, and they look like world-beaters. Them you watch them on tape vs. some other teams, and they look very average. So we knew they were capable of playing a good game, and we knew they were very well-coached on offense and defense.
“They played well. They played well enough to win tonight.”
So did West, particularly on defense. And particularly in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Through most of three quarters, neither team could do much offensively. West Rowan produced 108 yards and five first downs in the first half, while Lake Norman had 94 yards and four first downs.
The third quarter played out the same way, with the teams combining for three punts and an interception on the first four drives of the second half.
That West didn’t let Lake Norman do much offensively shouldn’t have been a surprise, as the Falcons (8-1, 7-0) entered the game allowing 8.8 points and 8.4 rushing yards per game.
But West also came in averaging 43.3 points itself. Lake Norman (5-4, 3-4) didn’t let the Falcons get close to that.
“We played all the tougher teams tooth and nail,” Wildcats coach Scott Sherrill said. “Our defense really bowed their neck and played tough.”
Lake Norman’s defense, in fact, provided the first touchdown of the game late in the third quarter.
Trailing 3-0 after a Matt Turchin field goal, the Wildcats took a 7-3 lead when Dirqual Ellis intercepted a pass and raced 64 yards untouched for a touchdown. B.J. Sherrill’s arm was hit as he released the ball, and Ellis didn’t have to veer from his straight path to the end zone.
The Falcons got the ball back with 32 seconds left in the third quarter and trailed for the first time since a loss to Davie County on Aug. 29.
“I really like what I saw out of our kids tonight,” Young said. “We had some opportunities to lay down and give up, and we didn’t.”
Instead, the Falcons put together a 15-play drive when they got the ball back. That drive ended with a turnover on downs, but West got the ball right back when Jon Crucitti returned a punt 26 yards to the Lake Norman 27-yard line.
Six plays later, Crucitti threw a reverse pass to Brantley Horton for the go-ahead touchdown.
“I might have rushed the release,” said Crucitti, who had a reverse pass from Horton go off his fingertips in the end zone in the first quarter. “You get somebody that wide open, you’re just trying to get it to him. … It was really one of those things where we’d been working and working all game and things just didn’t seem to (pan out). A penalty gets a big play called back or a pass off the fingertips.
“Then, finally, it was just one of those things where we made it happen.”
West had to make something happen again in overtime after the Wildcats drove 67 yards in just more than two minutes to set up a game-tying, 21-yard field goal by Sully Shidler. An Austin Greenwood tackle stopped Lake Norman on third-and-goal from the 1 to force the field-goal attempt.
West took the ball first in overtime and scored in two plays when K.P. Parks ran over a defender at the goal line. The Wildcats answered with a 10-yard touchdown run from James Cloud on their first play but missed a field goal in the second overtime.
“It’s a good thing because it shows how hard we can play,” said Parks, who rushed 34 times for 190 yards. “That’s what champions are made of ó when you play the whole game, hard all four quarters.”
And two overtimes.