Friday Football Fever: West Rowan vs. South Point preview

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 5, 2008

By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA ó The book opposing coaches keep on West Rowan football had to be revised after the Falcons’ stirring 20-16 victory against Winston-Salem Carver last Friday.
Conventional wisdom has been that stopping West’s I-formation power stuff causes trouble ó serious trouble ó for the Falcons.
It was a factor that K.P. Parks was running on only one healthy leg, but Carver handled West’s I-formation stuff. Parks was held to 92 hard-earned yards on 27 carries, and he didn’t score for the first time in 20 games.
The top-seeded Falcons (13-1) won anyway and advanced to tonight’s 3A state semifinal meeting with No. 2 seed Belmont South Point (13-1). Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. in Mount Ulla.
West was fortunate and resourceful against Carver. The Falcons made their own luck, scoring on two gadget plays.
The reverse pass was there all night, but West used it at the perfect moment. Jon Crucitti’s 60-yard toss to a wide-open Brantley Horton was a game-changer.
West didn’t win in the trenches for a change, but it didn’t lose either. The defense couldn’t stop Carver, but it bent more than it broke. The offensive line didn’t dominate, but it wasn’t dominated.
Considering West’s injury situation, considering how good Carver was and considering the Falcons trailed 10-0, it was the best win by a Rowan team since North beat A.L. Brown and East Rutherford in the third and fourth rounds of the 3A playoffs in 1992.
“They’re a well-coached, well-disciplined team,” South Point coach John Devine said. “With them coming from behind (against Carver), it shows they have great character.”
Winning tonight would be a monumental task. South Point has won 13 in a row since losing an across-the-border contest against Clover, S.C., to open the season.
South Point’s 28-0 blanking of Asheville last week was the team’s fifth shutout. Still, the offense gets the attention.
The Red Raiders call it the “Redbone,” a catchy name that produces eye-catching numbers. It’s similar to what Georgia Tech runs ó a triple-option offense with the quarterback either giving to the fullback, keeping the ball himself or making a pitchout to a wingback.
Aggressive defensively, West likes to swarm to the football. Against South Point, the Falcons must rein in emotional fire and play their assignments.
“Defending the triple option is all about discipline,” West defensive coordinator David Hunt explained. “You’ve got a responsibility. You can’t play anybody else.”
South Rowan, where former South Point player Jason Rollins is the head coach, tries to do what South Point does but lacks the personnel or familiarity with the system.
“We’ve seen teams similar in what they do,” West head coach Scott Young said. “But not in how they do it.”
South Point fullback Aaron Crumbley has scored a Gaston County record 38 TDS, one more than Parks, and rushed for 1,744 yards.
Big, fast quarterback Desmond Lowery, who’s rushed for 1,672 yards, may be an even more serious problem. South Point picks its spots to throw, and Lowery has put it up only 61 times. He’s thrown for four TDs with no picks.
Wingbacks Jesse McGaha and Josh Justice have combined for 1,300 yards and nine TDs.
“What we do is what we do,” Devine said. “We’re not going to trick you. We run the option at you, try to get downhill, get on the edge if we can. We know we’ve got our hands full. They’re an exceptional defense.”
Asheville took Crumbley out of the equation, holding him to 30 yards and keeping him out of the end zone, but Lowery scored four TDs in the second half. West has to stop Crumbley first, but it can’t allow Lowery to take over.
South Point doesn’t have Carver’s team speed, but the Red Raiders have superb execution and a tough offensive line. Evaluating film, West coaches say they’ve never seen any team get after it harder than South Point.
“We want to have balance inside and outside as far as who’s carrying the mail,” Devine said. “The story is our offensive line. They’ve been able to make tracks, get off the ball low and hard. We take what the defense gives us. We’re not going to be hard-headed. We find an area where we can attack and hope to find some running room.”
The struggle between South Point’s offensive line and a West front that features nose Eli Goodson, tackle Kenderic Dunlap and end Chris Smith will be a clash of titans.
On the other side of the ball, Devine has concerns about West’s offense ó especially Parks, who has 2,533 rushing yards.
No one will know just how effective Parks, who suffered a high ankle sprain two weeks ago, will be until he gets out there.
Devine, who watched film of West against Statesville and Carver, was impressed.
“From what I’ve seen, he’s a kid who’s played through an injury,” Devine said. “They’ll take care of him, get him treatment, and I expect him at full speed, full blast.
“I’ve seen the last two games and don’t have anything else to compare with, but I know he has great speed, great balance, great vision. He’s a hard runner, runs low to the ground and gets tough yards after contact. I’m very impressed with him and impressed with the fullback, (Jeremy) Melchor. He does a great job leading the way.”Carver coach Brent David said last week that Mount Ulla was a difficult place to play. The Falcons, who are enjoying the deepest playoff run in school history, hope that will be the case again tonight.
South Point is making its best playoff push since it won a state title in 2003.
It will be one of the biggest games ever played in Rowan County and is expected to attract one of the largest crowds.
“South Point is really good, but when you get to this level it doesn’t really matter who you play,” Young said. “There’s nothing but good football teams left.”
West proved last week it belongs, and tonight’s winner plays either West Craven or Rocky Mount for the 3A championship next Saturday at noon in Winston-Salem.
Common Sense predictionWest 21, South Point 20
Bret Strelow and Ronnie Gallagher contributed to this story.