Shaw column: No time to celebrate yet for West

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 21, 2008

MOUNT ULLA ó Now that the gap between West Rowan and a 3A state title has been narrowed to three victories, you’d think they’d be celebrating in Mount Ulla.
But you’d be wrong.
You’d think the 12-1 Falcons would be full of chest-pounding bravado after dismissing Statesville from the playoffs in orderly fashion Friday night.
But again, no dice.
“We can’t start dreaming about anything yet,” coach Scott Young insisted after the bone-numbing, second-round win. “It’s way too soon for that. Right now, in the third round, only good teams are left. There aren’t any underdogs left. Every team can beat you. I know it’s an old coaching adage, but now is when you’ve really got to take it one week at a time.”
Roger that. Perhaps that’s what made this victory ó Young’s 100th at West ó worth savoring. The Falcons didn’t play bullet-proof defense, but they played well enough to shut down Statesville quarterback T.J. McCombs and his stable of dangerous running backs. And their beat-up offense didn’t blow any amps, but again, it prevailed.
“We knew if we made it to Thanksgiving, anything can happen,” defensive end Chris Smith said with a veteran’s poise. “Now we’re there. It’s like Coach (David) Hunt says, ‘We’ve just gotta win one in a row.’ If we keep that mindset and stay focused on the next game, anything can happen.”
Smith fueled a defense that sacked McCombs three times and held Statesville to 181 total yards. It faltered only once in each half ó first when McCombs completed a 32-yard touchdown pass to Darryl Epps on fourth-down-and-a-cab-ride late in the second quarter. And again early in the fourth, when Statesville completed an 85-yard scoring drive.
“Actually, I liked how we all came together when we had to,” Smith said. “Like a family. It all started on the DL ó and we held up.”
So did the under-appreciated offensive line, which created enough cracks for tailback K.P. Parks to spin and weave his way for 177 yards, bum ankle and all.
“The kids up front aren’t the biggest or strongest linemen around,” assistant coach Joe Nixon noted. “They just play with great effort. And that overcomes a lot.”
The kids up front ó namely Tim Pangburn, Ricky Moore, Garrett Teeter, Joe Kerley and Davon Quarles ó simply responded to Nixon’s pre-game and halftime challenges.
“He got after us,” said Teeter, a 235-pound senior center. “He told us we had to give our max effort. We had to match their intensity. We had to play the way we’re supposed to play.”
Never was it more evident than on WR’s first possession of the second half. Nursing a precarious 14-7 lead, the Falcons drove 89 yards on nine plays for a pivotal TD.
“They responded well,” said Nixon. “It was very important that we came out of the locker room and took the life out of them right away. Of course, we had a real good one running the ball.”
That would be Parks, the junior who opened the second half with a 37-yard run. Later he busted a 21-yard gainer and finally, he scored on a 1-yard tap-dance behind left tackle Pangburn.
“We got everyone to get their eyes up,” said Teeter, “to see where to pick up the linebackers. We had to look downfield.”
The significance of Nixon’s pep talk wasn’t lost on receiver-slash-quarterback John Crucitti. “Coach Nixon knows how to motivate an offensive line,” he said. “That drive was the turning point.”
It turned an anxiety-filled situation into a reason to celebrate. But instead the Falcons stayed in character, maintained their intensity and soldiered on.
“That’s exactly right,” said Young, who also led West into the third round in 2005. “Did we play well? At times we did. Did we play poorly at other times? Yes we did. But that’s Statesville. They played aggressive and they played fearless. And I’m not too proud to give credit to the opponent.”
Perhaps Crucitti said it best after making three receptions for 55 yards. “You still have to use the cliches, the one-game-at-a-time. We’d love to finish the season in Winston-Salem, but that’s three wins away. All this did was bring us one step closer.”
And left another dream for another day.

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