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Friday Night Hero: West Rowan’s Domonique Noble

By Mike London
mlondon@salisburypost.com
MOUNT ULLA ó The only lapse in West Rowan’s 56-7 win against South Rowan in 2008 came on a TD pass by the Raiders late in the second quarter.
The victim of that 42-yard Blake Houston-to-B.J. Grant connection was a young West cornerback named Domonique Noble.
It’s standard practice for players to rag teammates about past slip-ups ó as long as they came in wins. Noble heard serious noise about Grant’s TD all day, every day, as West prepared to face South seniors Houston and Grant one more time.
“Everyone was talking about it all week long,” Noble said with a smile. “There wasn’t anything I could do about it except go out and play my hardest.”
Noble didn’t get mad. It would be hard to make him angry short of dropping a bowling ball on his foot.
“Domonique is a relaxed kind of fella,” defensive backs coach Tim Dixon said. “We have to talk to him all the time about not playing too relaxed.”
Grant is 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, fast, strong and rangy, a 6-8 high-jumper with 18 career TDs. Noble is Grant’s mirror image ó 6-2, 185, with springy legs and sinewy arms.
South had rushed for 243 yards per game in its first five outings, but West believed it could bring enough bodies to throttle the running game if Noble could deal with Grant one-on-one. The coaches’ faith in Noble was critical to the gameplan.
“We ask Domonique to take on very good receivers one-on-one a lot,” head coach Scott Young said. “He is a physically big and imposing corner ó and athletic.”
Noble had picked off two passes against Northwest’s celebrated QB Jeremy Cannon but been sidelined for West’s bitter struggle against Salisbury. Assistant coach Steven Williams had given Noble a pregame bear-hug and injured his ribs.
“We’re always joking around,” Noble said. “Coach didn’t mean to hurt me, but I missed the Salisbury game.”
South was the next major challenge for West. This time Noble was healthy.
South’s running attempts went nowhere ó 30 carries, 28 yards ó leaving the Raiders with only one option to move the ball. That was getting it vertically to Grant. Houston looked for him a half-dozen times, but Noble was a human blanket.
Grant finally made a 37-yard reception in the third quarter to move the ball to the West 25. It took a perfect throw and a perfect catch. It cleared Noble, who was in excellent position, by inches.
“They got me on the same play as their touchdown last year,” Noble said. “B.J. went inside, then outside. All I could say to him was, ‘Hey, nice catch.’ “It was Grant’s only one.
West won 28-0, handing South the first shutout it’s suffered since Grant and Houston joined the South varsity as sophomores.
“The best pass defense is pressure on the QB,” Noble said. “My teammates put the pressure on Blake and gave me a chance to succeed.”
Noble is such a gifted athlete he played varsity basketball for the Falcons as a freshman. He loves both sports, but his ceiling is probably higher in football. A 6-2 corner who can cover is a major commodity.
“He’s played very well the last two weeks,” Young said. “Virginia and Wake have watched him. He’s solid academically and has a chance to go big.”
The Falcons play West Iredell this Friday, and the Warriors have their own big-time athlete in P.J. Clyburn.
When Clyburn lines up on offense, Noble will be challenged all over again. It’s hard to relax in the NPC.

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