Friday Night Hero: South’s Jacob Nance
By Mike London
LANDIS ó The date was Wednesday, Oct. 21, the event was South Rowan football practice, and the person everyone was worried about was South Rowan middle linebacker Cadarreus Mason.
Mason, 240 pounds of mobile muscle, seemingly indestructible, the leader of a unit that has put up South’s best defensive numbers in 20 years, could barely walk, and no one was sure why.
“That was a Wednesday when Cadarreus was hurting,” senior linebacker Jacob Nance said. “On Thursday, I was in second period when I heard he was having surgery for appendicitis.”
The 195-pound Nance is the largest of the three players who rotate at South’s two outside linebacker positions. By third period, coaches had informed him he was the temporary middle linebacker, with John Davis and Jacob Baker elevated to full-time jobs on the outside.
“It was all kind of nerve-wracking because I was worried about making the right reads,” Nance said. “Cadarreus is definitely a D-I player. I was worried about filling some very big shoes. ”
At Thursday’s practice, Nance started learning how to fill Mason’s large cleats. The rivalry game with Carson was 27 hours away.
That night, Nance and quarterback Blake Houston attended the South-Carson jayvee game at Carson. Nance’s orders were to observe and read Carson’s guards, with the idea being Carson’s varsity would run the same plays on Friday.
Word had spread quickly. The Cougars knew Mason was in the hospital. The trash-talk swapped back and forth was good-natured, but the message from several Cougars was loud and clear. Without Mason, Shaun Warren runs all over you guys.
With the advantage of 20/20 hindsight, everyone knows that didn’t happen.
South shut out Carson in the first half and breezed 46-21. Warren’s line: 22 carries, 90 yards, no TDs. South coaches give Nance a lot of credit.
“He wasn’t perfect,” linebackers coach Jim Brooks said. “But he never backed down. He’s the kind of kid that enjoys a challenge.”
Nance takes no credit for himself.
“Warren is very quick and and that receiver (Cody Clanton) is very good, but our defensive line blew a lot of their plays up,” he said. “That helped me out a lot, and so did Baker and Davis. You can actually see the field a whole lot better from the middle. After a while, I really kinda enjoyed it.”
Nance paid years of dues for that night in the spotlight. As a freshman, he bench-pressed 115 pounds. Now he pushes the iron pretty good. He maxes at 300.
“Nance started on jayvees as a sophomore, but he had to do a lot of watching last year when we had guys like Reid Shaver and Dakota Walker,” head coach Jason Rollins said. “The great thing about Nance is he never complained, never gave up, just stayed after it and kept getting stronger in that weight room. And now, it’s paying off.”
Last Friday, it paid off a little more. South devastated Statesville 76-22, building a 55-6 halftime lead.
“Our offense was great and our special teams were great,” Nance said. “I didn’t do anything special, but we showed that the defense was still OK, even without Cadarreus. And it felt great to break the school (scoring) record on Senior Night.”
Mason is back at practice now, fully cleared, a few pounds lighter but cheerfully smashing teammates and smiling like he was never ill. Maybe he is indestructible.
Nance is thrilled to see the big guy, and he’s quietly returned to being one of the outside backers. But Nance can feel good about what he did. He plans a career in the military, and he got an early start the past two weeks.
He held the fort. Now the cavalry has arrived.