Prep football: West Rowan 14, Salisbury 7
By Mike London
West Rowan’s 30th straight win against county opponents came the hard way.
K.P. Parks scored two second-half TDs and rushed for 221 yards on 31 carries to lift the Falcons to a 14-7 comeback victory over an inspired Salisbury team.
“In our long county run, this was the toughest,” West coach Scott Young. “This was the biggest challenge we’ve faced. All the credit in the world to the Salisbury kids and to our kids as well for a great football game.”
It was hard and clean, bruising and brutal, fast and physical.
It was an instant classic that came down to a correct call by an official who got into perfect position to make it. Salisbury’s Dejoun Jones nearly caught a TD pass from John Knox in the right corner of the end zone with 1:20 remaining, but Jones had one foot out of bounds.
SHS coach Joe Pinyan used frequent Appalachian State-Michigan analogies in his pregame speech, and his rhetoric worked his team into a frenzy.
“We wanted to shock the community, the county and the world and we did it for 21/2 quarters,” Pinyan said. “That first half we played textbook bend-but-don’t-break defense. Our guys hung in there a long, long time, but they finally wore down.”
West won its 18th in a row, but it’s been pushed to the edge two straight Fridays.
“Basically, ever since we won the state championship everyone’s coming for us,” said defensive lineman Chris Smith, who is committed to Arkansas. “We’ve got that bull’s eye now.”
West rolled down the field on its first possession, and had first-and-10 at the Salisbury 20 when corner Jeremiah Stockdale picked off West QB B.J. Sherrill.
Salisbury’s first snap produced an 82-yard burst by sprinter Romar Morris, right up the gut and to the house. There was pandemonium at historic Ludwig Stadium by the time Morris reached midfield. He was running like the wind and running all alone.
“Our defense was off to another bad start, just like at Davie,” Smith said. “But we came back strong. Our coaches are great, and tonight we also had the effort. That’s the only thing they can’t coach.”
West (4-0) tried to answer Morris’ wheels with a punishing drive and a heavy dose of Parks. The grinding march lasted 17 plays, but it ended with no points when Parks was bear-hugged to the grass by 390-pound Salisbury nose tackle Kiontae Rankin at the Salisbury 9 on fourth down.
West’s last two possessions of the half produced frustration. First, Joseph Figueroa intercepted Sherrill. Then Darien Rankin sacked Sherrill and forced a fumble that Ike Whitaker recovered.
Salisbury (2-2) had just three first downs at halftime and negligible offense other than Morris’ breakaway, but it held a 7-0 lead, and the stadium was rocking.
“We told our guys at halftime, West was gonna come out and play the second half the same way they played in the state-championship game, and that’s what they did,” Pinyan said. “But I was proud. We stayed in there toe-to-toe.”
Sherrill finally turned the tide on West’s second possession of the second half. The junior broke multiple tackles on a 38-yard run to the Salisbury 25. Parks pounded the ball into the end zone three plays later, and Bertin Suarez’s PAT made it 7-7 with 2:14 left in the third quarter.
Early in the fourth, the Falcons hammered 81 methodical yards for the winning TD. Parks scored from the 5.
“Those last two drives we just pounded the ball,” Parks said. “As good as Salisbury played, we rolled it there at the end, and it was enough.”
Just enough. Salisbury worked into scoring position late when Knox hit Darien Rankin for 38 yards, but Knox’s fourth-and-5 pass to Jones missed being a miracle by a matter of inches.
“Salisbury can go deep in the playoffs,” Young said. “They’ve always had speed, always had athletes. Tonight, for the first time, they matches us when it came to being physical.”