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London column: Davie’s Watson looking for big year

This is the second of eight features on area high school football teams.
Today: Davie County
Tomorrow: North Rowan
By Mike London
MOCKSVILLE ó Davie County’s 7-5 2008 season was disappointing, but it included arguably the greatest game in school history.
Seemingly down and out and facing a 34-8 halftime deficit at Greensboro Page, Davie rallied to spoil homecoming with a 50-49 overtime win.
“We climbed a mountain that night, and what we learned is anything can happen in a football game if the coaches keep the kids in it and the kids have faith and keep believing in what they’re doing,” Davie head coach Doug Illing said. A receiver who was a believer was a young sophomore named Joe Watson. Watson caught the TD pass from Zach Illing, the coach’s son, that made it 49-49. It was his eighth catch of the night and his third TD of the night.
The Watson who made those grabs against Page was a sleek 6-foot-1, 180-pounder, but now that Watson looks like the little brother of the junior version. Watson is now listed at 6-3, 209 on the roster, and he looks every bit of that.
“Joe put on some muscle in the offseason and got faster, got his 40 time down to 4.5,” Illing said. “With a little more maturing, a little more growing up and working as hard as he’s capable, the sky’s the limit for him.”
Watson finished his sophomore season with sterling stats ó 40 catches, 944 yards and 11 TDs and almost 24 yards per reception.
Watson’s deeds included a 149-yard performance against West Rowan that enabled the War Eagles to hand the 3AA state champs their only loss in a storybook season.
Watson enters the 2009 season as the North Carolina Prep Football News’ pick for CPC Player of the Year, although he hadn’t heard that good news until yesterday evening.
“I’m shocked at that honor,” Watson said. “It makes me feel good, but to live up to something like that, I’ve got to be humble, play hard and help Davie win the CPC championship.”
Davie graduated its quarterback and its running back and is rebuilding its offensive line, but it could still have a good offense. Watson is that special. He’ll get his catches and yards and TDs and he’ll help teammates be productive as well.
“If the defense respects me, keys everything on me, then it should open up the whole offense,” Watson said.
Receivers coach Chris Callison said the key for Watson in 2009 is going to be not getting frustrated if he can’t pile up the kind of numbers to which he’s become accustomed.
He won’t sneak up on anyone this time. Everyone knows about him now. Everyone will gameplan for him. The only teams that don’t double-team him will be the ones that triple-team him.
“Joe’s a gifted kid with all kinds of tools ó thick and pretty fast,” Callison said. “But this is his second year, not his first, and he has to understand he’s going to get doubled. He has to be patient. He’s got to take pride in drawing that double-team so someone else can make a catch. He’s got to say to himself, ‘Hey, I didn’t make that catch but I was responsible for it.’ ”
As good a football prospect as he is, it isn’t a certainty that will be Watson’s best sport down the line.
He’s a right fielder and pitcher for Davie’s baseball team, and when you can throw 89 mph with the impressive frame Watson owns scouts are going to be interested.
“I love baseball and football and play them both in season,” Watson said. “I talked to some scouts this year at the (American Legion) all-star game and I’ve gotten some pro letters.
“I really don’t know right now which sport I like best. I’ll just have to see how things go the next two years.”
Expect things to go well for Watson. If they go well for Watson, they also should go well for Davie.


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