Prep Football: South Rowan 21, A.L. Brown 19
By Mike London
LANDIS ó South Rowan Raiders wore red from head to toe Friday night. That included the hearts on their sleeves.
In an emotional game, a senior-laden South team held off A.L. Brown 21-19 for the biggest win of coach Jason Rollins’ four-year tenure.
It wasn’t decided until the Wonders’ Brenden Brown was short on a 38-yard field goal attempt with 48 seconds left.
“We knew we were right at the limit of his range,” Wonders coach Ron Massey said. “But on fourth-and-11 there aren’t a lot of solid plays left in your playbook.”
Rollins, a Belmont native, admitted he’d never figured out the heat generated by this rivalry until South quarterback Blake Houston took a knee on the final snap and set off a celebration that rocked the foundation of houses in Landis and China Grove.
“I didn’t grow up here, and I spent years trying to convince our kids this was just another game,” Rollins said. “But now I know. Now I get it. Now I can see what this game means to them. This team just had a weight lifted off its shoulders. This school just got a monkey off its back.”
Houston was fantastic in the first half, using his left arm and both legs to bewilder the Wonders (1-1). He had 106 passing yards and 73 rushing yards by halftime.
A.L. Brown’s Travis Riley, a bruiser who can fly, dominated the second half and finished with 203 rushing yards.
“At halftime we felt good, but they made the right adjustments and got Riley rolling in the second half,” Rollins said. “He is a beast.”
Brown scored first on a TD catch by tight end Spencer Falls barely three minutes in, but Houston answered with TD passes to B.J. Grant and Quan Glaspy.
The 50-yard connection with Grant will be talked about 40 years from now. Houston scrambled nearly from sideline to sideline, pulled up at the line of scrimmage and somehow spotted Grant.
“B.J. has played with me long enough that he followed me across the field,” Houston said. “This was a game we’ve waited for for four years.”
Grant reversed his field 10 yards, then dashed to the end zone to complete one of the plays of the century.
South (2-0) appeared to have control late in the second quarter, but it fumbled away a chance to score again before halftime. The Wonders, as they always do, stormed back in the second half.
“We got pumped up at halftime, but yards were still hard to get,” Riley said. “South is good on defense and offense, and Houston’s an athlete. He made the plays for them.”
South’s Cody Simpson returned the second-half kickoff to the Brown 18 to set up a 7-yard scoring run by D’Andre Harris for a 21-7 lead.”We had so many penalties,” Harris said after the Raiders were flagged for 150 yards in infractions. “But we kept our minds right. We kept going. We wouldn’t give up.”
Riley kept the heat on. His 42-yard breakout midway through the third quarter made it 21-13, but the Wonders missed a vital PAT ó it hit the crossbar ó that dictated all the events that followed.
Riley’s 1-yard burst with 8:41 remaining cut South’s lead to 21-19, but the Wonders had to go for two and a pass attempt was well-defended.
Brown looked as if it would have prime field position for its final push, but South’s Jacob Jester boomed a 51-yard punt and the Wonders took over on their 24 with 2:49 left.
Racing the clock, Brown advanced to second-and-7 at South’s 17, but a critical penalty pushed the Wonders back to the 25. South was able to hold and force a field-goal attempt.
“South’s got four good weapons,” Massey said. “They’ve got a senior quarterback, and he was the difference. A senior quarterback should be the difference.”