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Gallagher column: West football team proves again it’s one of the elite

CHARLOTTE ó A state title leads to unlimited opportunities as the West Rowan football team found out Saturday afternoon at the Carolina Panthers’ practice facility.
There they were, 24 kids from Cleveland, Woodleaf and Mount Ulla performing on the big stage, along with some of the best football programs in North and South Carolina for the Panthers’ 7-on-7 Passing Invitational.
B.J. Sherrill was lining up under bruising center Timmy Pangburn against South Carolina powers Rock Hill South Pointe, Marlboro County and Spartanburg Dorman. Jon Crucitti was running upfield against North Carolina state champion Reidsville and mighty Independence.
“You just hope you win a game or two,” West coach Scott Young thought going in. “You hope you can compete well.”

West proved it belonged in this group. The Falcons won more than two games and they competed enough to make the championship semifinals, where Reidsville was waiting.
The Falcons passed its way through the Rams and suddenly were in the finals against 4A juggernaut Independence, who has won so many state titles it’s easy to forget just how many.
On the line was a trip to Minnesota for the NFL finals.
That’s pretty heady stuff. And whether people who are not from Cleveland, Woodleaf or Mount Ulla like it or not, West Rowan is among the elite football programs in the state. Young will carry a gaudy 103-37 career mark into the fall.
West threw two interceptions in the end zone that helped Independence win 23-7. But Young did not go away discouraged.
“I’m absolutely pleased,” he said.

A 7-on-7 passing event goes something like this: A team brings a center, a quarterback, a running back and four wide receivers.
Sherrill was the QB and I think we all know who the running back was: K.P. Parks, who caught passes out of the backfield.
At receiver, there was no more Brantley Horton, but Young did showcase his whirling dervish Crucitti, who plays everywhere. He gave chances to guys like Patrick Hampton, Nolan Phillips, Jarvis Morgan and Odell McBride.
Defensively, it’s three linebackers and four defensive backs. There were more familiar names: Chris Smith, Josh Poe and Trey Culbertson at linebacker, along with Christian Hedrick. Dominique Noble and Trey Mashore defended passes.
“We have untested DBs,” Young said. “Noble, Mashore and Eric Cowan seem to be the three leaders right now.”
A team starts at the 40-yard line and has four plays to get to the 20. Then, it has four plays to score. If it is stopped, it turns things over to the defense.
“It was hot,” Young said of the temperature that reached 95. “Add 5-to-7 degrees on that pro-turf field and it was a war of attrition. All of the teams were spent.”
But satisfied.
“West Rowan has sorta got that stigma that we’re going to run the ball, run the ball, run the ball,” Young said. “And we will. But last year, we proved you’ve got to throw the football. I believe we’re going to be able to throw the football this year, too.”
And whether people who are not from Cleveland, Woodleaf or Mount Ulla like it or not, Saturday was probably a sign of things to come once August arrives.
West Rowan will again be balanced ó and a favorite to repeat its 3A title.

NOTES: West goes to Thomasville on Thursday. … Three Panthers were assigned to each team. … West’s final passing event is July 2 against Alexander Central.

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