Prep Football: North Rowan 41, South Davidson 8
By Bret Strelow
SPENCER ó North Rowan turned to its “Heavy” set, and 232-pound lineman Dondre Gaither looked light on his feet.
Gaither, a 5-foot-9 senior, stepped in as a fullback for North’s first offensive play of the fourth quarter. Wearing No. 55, he motored down the left sideline for a 70-yard touchdown that put an exclamation point on the Cavs’ 41-8 win Friday night against visiting South Davidson.
“I almost missed the handoff and somebody wanted to go head-up with me, but I had to teach them,” Gaither said. “I got control of the ball, saw the open field and just ran.
“It’s crazy. At first I was nervous, thinking somebody was going to suck me down and come get me. Once I saw there wasn’t anybody behind me, I saw the touchdown right there.”
Darryl Jackson returned a second-quarter interception 50 yards for a TD, but North led only 14-8 at halftime.
Cameron Mallett (115 yards on six carries) rushed for an 80-yard touchdown on the Cavs’ first offensive snap of the third quarter, and Terry Allen capped the scoring with a 43-yard return following the first of his two late picks.
North coach Tasker Fleming informed Gaither, who kicked two extra points in the first half, that he led the Cavs in scoring.
“People don’t think I can run very fast,” Gaither said, “but I can for my size.”
During the last week of practice, North’s coaches installed an offensive set to use both Gaither and defensive standout Javon Hargrave.
Gaither lined up in the backfield for a fourth-and-1 play in the first quarter, but a false start ó the Cavs had 20 penalties for 175 yards ó took North (5-6, 5-2 YVC) out of a short-yardage situation.
“Our kids go against our defense in practice, and a lot of times we have players like Dondre on the scout offense for our defense to get better,” Fleming said. “He ran so hard in practice, why not give him a chance on the field?
“We thought short yardage may come up. When the game got a little out of hand, go ahead and run it. We figured he’d do like in practice ó get about 8 yards and somebody would hit him and knock him sideways. He ran about 80 yards.”
The Cavaliers, who claimed third place in their first season as a member of the 1A YVC, had several other sizable gains wiped out by penalties.
North jumped in front on Vince Shropshire’s 5-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter, and its next series ended with an interception.
The Cavs regained possession when Jackson caught a tipped pass at midfield. He sprinted down the right sideline, picked up a block from Hargrave and hurdled a tackle attempt at the 5-yard line.
“All I saw was the defender coming,” Jackson said, “and I was like, ‘Oh, am I going to dive over him or am I going to try to run him over?’ My teammate made a good block, and I got in. I gave him a little high-step.”
The Wildcats (3-8, 2-5) scored on Cody DeCamp’s 16-yard run with 2:08 left in the first half, and Sam Starks returned the kickoff 91 yards to South Davidson’s 6. A flag forced the Cavs to instead start at their 21, and a block in the back erased most of Pierre Givens’ 51-yard reverse.
“We had big plays, and every one came with a free flag,” Fleming said.
Mallett’s scoring burst early in the third quarter involved two flags ó South Davidson was called for defensive blocking in the back, and North’s Keith Reid was disqualified for retaliating ó but the touchdown pushed the Cavs in the right direction.
Kornell Cook came up with an interception on the Wildcats’ next play, and a short touchdown run by Malik Jones gave the Cavaliers a 20-point cushion.
“At halftime they told us to get it together,” Mallett said. “Get it together and finish.”
NOTE: Reid should be available for a playoff opener.