Prep Football: North Rowan 16, South Stanly 14
By David Shaw
NORWOOD ó For a program that’s had to cherish every positive moment the past few years, this was a game to remember.
North Rowan 16, South Stanly 14 was history in the making on Friday night. The Cavaliers ventured into unknown waters ó the 1A Yadkin Valley Conference ó and emerged triumphant, snapping a 16-game on-the-field losing streak and giving second-year coach Tasker Fleming his first victory between the lines.
“There’s been a 300-pound gorilla running around, right on my back the past two years,” he said after taking his first bow in the winner’s circle. “And now he’s gone. These kids, they know how to win and they’re enjoying it.”
North (1-4, 1-0) proved as much with a determined second-half effort. The Cavs spun straw into gold by erasing a 14-0, third-quarter deficit and playing steel-curtain defense down the stretch.
“We were just waiting for this,” defensive back Robert Vadi proclaimed. “It was like getting a second chance and making the most of it.”
It was a long time coming, especially for senior Vince Shropshire and junior Javon Hargrave ó crusty veterans who suffered through last fall’s train-wreck of a season.
“Just put it like this,” tailback Malik Jones instructed. “We got tired of losing and we decided to do something about it.”
North seemed to be headed south once again when the Rowdy Rebel Bulls (3-2, 0-1) recovered a fumble on the Cavs’ first play from scrimmage and turned it into an early 8-0 lead.
“We started the game, fumbled and they got eight points off our offense,” Tasker said. “But for the rest of the night our defense played as well as they can play against a good team. They kept going out on the field and giving us a chance.”
North’s defense yielded only 48 yards in the first half. Problem was, the Cavs’ offense was MIA, gaining only two first downs and 25 yards. Besides the early fumble, starting quarterback O’Shawn West was intercepted twice.
The game’s momentum shifted after South padded its lead to 14-0 on a Jalen Holt touchdown pass with 7:55 remaining in the third period.
“We knew we had to come back,” Shropshire said after rushing for 75 yards. “We had to forget about the first play. We had to find a way to win this.”
Junior Jesse Rudisell replaced West in the second half and ignited North’s comeback about a minute later. Following a 32-yard run by Shropshire, he scored on a 14-yard bootleg that pulled the Cavs within 14-6. Early in the fourth quarter, a nine-play drive stalled at the South 1, but Holt was sacked in the end zone for a safety with 10:57 to play.
“The safety ó that was the biggest play,” said Hargrave, who lassoed the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Holt. “Our nose guard (Garland Archie) busted up the middle and that set me free. That changed the game.”
North used nine time-consuming plays to march for the game-winning touchdown. It was scored by Shropshire on a 1-yard burst off right tackle with 6:18 to go. “I specifically said, ‘Coach, give me the ball back,’ ” he said.
Rudisell, North’s junior quarterback, broke the tie and closed the scoring by sweeping in for the two-point conversion.
“I just ran behind Vince,” he said.
It was all defense the rest of the way. North allowed only one first down in the second half ó on a game-ending 23-yard pass. The final horn set off a wild celebration on the field and along the Cavs’ sideline.
“We just wanted to scream,” said Hargrave, who recovered two fumbles. “We finally did it.”
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