Friday Night Heroes: West Rowan’s offensive line
By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA ó West Rowan tailback K.P. Parks has attained such a lofty level of accomplishment that his gains can be measured in mileage as well as yardage.
Officially, Parks has rushed for 9,529 yards ó 5.4 miles ó in his career.
“I can’t see myself running five miles ó without a football,” West coach Scott Young said with a laugh.
Ragsdale’s Toney Baker holds the state mark with 10,241 yards (5.8 miles).
In his quest to pass Baker on the road to a repeat state title, Parks is following a wide path cleared of tacklers by bangers Timmy Pangburn, Davon Quarles, Rodney Cline, Armando Trujillo, Charles Holloway and Patrick Hampton.
That’s the starting offensive line, plus tight end Hampton, whom Young calls “an extension of the O-line.”
Pangburn, Quarles and Hampton are returning starters from last year’s 15-1 run. They understand what it takes to be champs and have been part of a county-record 24 straight victories. Quarles, a 225-pound tackle, has been West’s most consistent performer all year.
“I gained a lot of maturity last season,” Quarles said. “We all feel honored to block for K.P. and we keep improving from our practice drills against our D-line. They’re tough.”
Salisbury nipped West for the county rushing title in 2005, but the Falcons are headed for their fourth straight crown. West blasted through the 4,000-yard barrier in 2008 and pushed past 3,000 rushing yards this season in Friday’s 41-7 victory at East Rowan.
“On film, we saw good things Friday, guys playing at a high level,” O-line coach Joe Nixon said. “The thing has been getting all six linemen to play as one. Technique is part of it, but the key is all six attacking. We’re coming on some now, starting to attack people.”
Nixon was not pleased after West’s sixth game, a 28-0 home victory against South Rowan in which Raider interior lineman Zach Howell and middle linebacker Cadarreus Mason offered a serious fight against West’s usually irresistible blue tide. Parks had to settle for 167 bruising yards. West rushed for a season-low 199.
Nixon watched his lineman take over games after halftime in 2008. They weren’t doing that to his satisfaction, even though he was getting “maximum effort” from Quarles. After sleepless nights, he implemented a midseason change.
West had opened the year with Pangburn at center, but he wasn’t playing at his former level. Nixon switched him back to left guard, where he starred last season, with guard Armando Trujillo shifting to center.
“That move by Coach Nixon helped us go to another level of play across the board,” Young said.
Pangburn returned to being a dominant force, constantly on the attack.
“I wasn’t playing as consistently hard as I wanted to at center,” Pangburn said. “I was worried about snaps.”
West has averaged 371 rushing yards per game since the adjustment and rocked East for 379, even with Pangburn sidelined by a practice concussion that occurred when his bell was rung by a linebacker. He did his best to coach his teammates on Friday.
“Louis Kraft (the backup tight end) and Jairahmai Robinson filled Timmy’s void and we stayed real solid,” Young said. “We didn’t miss a beat.”
Practice remains a major challenge for the O-line, working against studs such as nose guard Eli Goodson and defensive end Chris Smith, NPC Player of the Year candidates.
“Maybe that’s helping our guys, but it’s not helping me any,” Nixon said. “Still, if we can hold up through the week against those guys, there’s a good chance that we’ll do OK on Friday night.”
Keep in mind Parks is putting up his numbers on a team that also has a passer (B.J. Sherrill) and receiver (Jon Crucitti) challenging school records. It’s quite an offense. It all starts with the guys in the trenches.
“We pride ourselves not just on blocking for a great back but for being multiple on offense,” Pangburn said.
Parks rolls on down that road cleared by the big guys. Baker’s amazing 5.8 miles are now in plain sight.
“If K.P. makes it and makes it all the way to the NFL, he’d better remember us,” a grinning Quarles said.