Friday Night Fever: Falcons, Wonders ready for second round
By Mike London
West Rowan’s football team plays host to Statesville tonight at 7:30 p.m. in a second-round 3A game.
West coach Scott Young will be looking for his 100th career win. Statesville will be looking for payback, respect and an upset.
Fans who watched West destroy the Greyhounds 41-7 on Sept. 26 may decide it’s not worth fighting the traffic and the cold, but they’ll miss a good football game.
West (11-1) and Statesville agree on one thing ó the Greyhounds played their worst game all year on their first trip to Mount Ulla.
Statesville, a running team, managed 29 rushing yards in that wipeout, got down 7-0 in the opening minute, was buried 28-0 at halftime and never offered serious resistance.
But Statesville (9-3) is healthier now and a whole lot better than it was in September. That’s obvious from what’s happened on the field in October and November.
The eighth-seeded Greyhounds, who are led by running back Andre Shepherd and quarterback T.J. McCombs, have won six of their last seven games, with the lone loss in that stretch coming in overtime to Mooresville.
Statesville beat Parkwood last week in the first round. Parkwood beat Anson County and Sun Valley so that gets your attention.
West has beaten Statesville in seven of eight meetings during Young’s tenure. Statesville last beat West 23-14 in 2003 in Mount Ulla.
It’s also worth noting many of coach Randall Gusler’s Greyhounds were on the squad that had West on the ropes at Greyhound Hollow in 2007 before Matt Sheets fell on a fumble in the end zone. West escaped 26-17.
Dean Smith was criticized for not being able to win the “big one” until his basketball Tar Heels beat Georgetown for a championship in 1982, and Mike Krzyzewski had his share of detractors until Duke basketball broke through against UNLV and Kansas in the 1991 Final Four.
It’s never a bad thing to be lumped in the same sentence with Smith and Krzyzewski, but every November, Young, who has an absolutely amazing overall record, and his staff hear the same moans, groans and doubts Smith and Coach K once heard.
The regular-season victories, NPC banners and consecutive county wins are piling up in Mount Ulla, but the Falcons are 6-6 in the playoffs since they started making it every year in 2002, and that’s counting last week’s 37-3 win against Franklin.West has had tough draws and tough luck. It’s run up against stud teams such as North Gaston in 2007, and it’s run into great programs such as A.L. Brown in 2005 and Crest in 2003. Still, the Falcons have only reached the third round twice, and never the fourth. That’s not great when you’re going 10-1 every regular season.
West fans, Rowan fans, for that matter, are starved for a serious football run. No Rowan team has made it to a state-championship game since North in 1992, and West is almost always the county team with the best chance.
As the No. 1 seed in 3A, West has home field right up to the Dec. 13 state championship game in Winston-Salem, so maybe this is the year.
The Falcons throw it well, assuming quarterback B.J. Sherrill and receiver Brantley Horton are healthier than they were last week.
West has a great defense, short on household names but long on shutting teams down.
West has the running back of the century in K.P. Parks, who has scored 35 TDs this season and 91 in his career.
The Falcons also have fullback Jeremy Melchor ó who buried two defenders on one Parks run last week ó and defensive end Brett Graham and a dozen others who are solid, hard-nosed football players, even though you may never have heard of them.
West also has an outstanding, stable coaching staff that’s overdue to win some big ones.
But first things first.
Before West can start thinking about Carver or dreaming about South Point, it has to handle the challenge of a fired-up Statesville team that isn’t likely to go home quietly.
“Statesville has been a tremendous team the past seven weeks,” Young said. “They’re not the same team we beat two months ago, and they’re faster than we are. We’ll need to play well.”
If you believe in omens, the last time A.L. Brown won a state championship, the coach had a son on the team.
That was 1997 when coach Bruce Hardin’s twins, Blair and Justin, were sophomores called up for the playoff run.
Brown coach Ron Massey, senior tight end Zach Massey and the rest of the Wonders are at home tonight at Memorial Stadium against Waxhaw Marvin Ridge.
Like West, fourth-seeded Brown (10-2) is taking on a conference opponent it’s already beaten, but there’s little chance the Wonders will take 12th-seeded Marvin Ridge (7-5) lightly in a 3AA encounter.
For one thing, Marvin Ridge beat No. 5 Gastonia Forestview in the first round, and Forestview had beaten Kings Mountain and Crest.
For another, Brown needed a TD run by QB Jamill Lott in overtime to beat Marvin Ridge 23-20 in September.
Brown is playing well. In the five games since their bye week, the Wonders have averaged 40 points a game.
Brown’s defense has been good all season and has held six opponents to seven points or fewer.
Quarterback Seth Boyce and running back Dylan Williams lead the Mavericks, who were coached by Bruce Hardin when they debuted last year.
Lott is having a sensational senior season for the Wonders with 874 rushing yards and 1,334 passing yards. He has accounted for 27 TDs.
In 2A, No. 5 West Davidson is at No. 4 Starmount. Starmount won 28-24 early in the season.
In 3AA, No. 7 Mooresville (9-3) is on the road at No. 2 Kings Mountain, which is 9-3, with tight losses to South Point, Forestview and Crest.