Prep Football Playoffs: West Rowan 27, Statesville 14
By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA ó West Rowan coach Scott Young left the field slowly, still clinging tightly to the gameball from an unforgettable 100th career victory.
With K.P. Parks hobbling with a sprained ankle and another half-dozen Falcons hurting, West fought off inspired Statesville and bitter cold. The top-seeded Falcons kept their season chugging forward with a 27-14 victory.
Parks still rushed for 177 yards and racked up his 92nd and 93rd career TDs. End Chris Smith spent lots of quality time in Statesville’s backfield and energized West’s defense.
West (12-1) earned the right to play host to No. 4 seed Winston-Salem Carver (11-2) in next Friday’s third round of the 3A playoffs.
“This win was a little special, just like that first one against Salisbury 10 years ago,” Young said. “The 100 wins is a testament to the staff and to a lot of kids with character and toughness. We’ve had some pretty good athletes, but it’s the toughness of our guys that never ceases to amaze me. That’s what usually makes the difference for us.”
Young expected to see a different Statesville team from the one West manhandled 41-7 in September, and the Greyhounds (9-4) were different. They played turnover-free and virtually penalty free on a windy, freezing night right out of “The Call of the Wild.”
“At first, our adrenaline warmed us up,” said West safety Austin Greenwood, who made a touchdown-saving tackle on a kickoff. “But it was chilly, and it got colder and colder as it went on.”
Parks’ first carry of the night went for 18 yards, but he came up lame after his second one when a Statesville lineman fell on his leg.
With Parks limping on and off the field, West finished that first drive for a 7-0 lead.
A 26-yard punt return by Jon Crucitti provided field position on West’s second possession, and B.J. Sherrill’s first-down pass to Crucitti produced a 39-yard TD and a 14-0 lead with 3:40 left in the first quarter.
West’s defense held the Greyhounds without a first down in the opening quarter, and a third consecutive Statesville three-and-out and a shaky punt gave West the ball at the Statesville 37 and a chance to knock the Greyhounds out early.
“But we didn’t take care of it,” Young said.
Instead Statesville dug in. Tyrell Bennett stopped Parks for a loss on third-and-four, a fourth-down pass was incomplete, and it was a ballgame.
“The first time we played that team they didn’t have their heads in the game,” West fullback Jeremy Melchor said. “We came out, smashed them in the face, and that was it. Tonight, the plan was to smash them in the face again, but this time they smashed back. From there, it was a dogfight.”
West didn’t make a first down in the second quarter, and Statesville made it a 14-7 game at halftime when QB T.J. McCombs completed a 32-yard TD pass to Darryl Epps on a fourth-and-20 play.
West’s first possession of the second half was key, and Falcon fans breathed a sigh of relief when Parks exploded for 37 yards on the first snap. He accounted for 68 yards on an 89-yard drive that made it 20-7, and Matt Turchin’s PAT gave the Falcons a 14-point lead.
Statesville still hung in. With the aid of a pass interference penalty that provided a first down at the West 13, the Greyhounds marched 85 yards to score and trailed 21-14 with 10:32 remaining.
“We played with Greyhound pride,” Statesville coach Randall Gusler said. “We moved the ball on them. This probably had to be the hardest-fought game they had all year.”
Push came to shove for West when it faced third-and-2 at its 25 with nine minutes left. If West failed to get a first down, it was anyone’s game.
“They were tough, but I was thinking, ‘Give me that ball and let’s go get it,’ ” Parks said.
Parks got the ball, Melchor and the offensive line moved people out, and Parks got the 2 West had to have and 18 more.
Parks, who was hurting after the game, produced 61 yards on that clinching drive, and when West scored on Sherrill’s 1-yard sneak with 5:44 remaining, victory was certain.
“That fourth-quarter drive, how good an answer was that?” Young said as he squeezed his gameball.”
Many Falcons were trudging gingerly as they moved up the hill leaving the stadium, but they did move on.