Prep Football: South Rowan 27, East Rowan 20
By Mike London
firstname.lastname@example.orgGRANITE QUARRY ó Instant replay would’ve been helpful, but that option wasn’t available.
Coaches won’t know if East Rowan back Chris Moore’s knee was down or not until they watch the film today, but it was awfully close.
Moore was ruled to have fumbled with East driving with just under two minutes remaining. Safety Quan Glaspy made the hit on Moore, and linebacker Jacob Nance recovered at the South 18.
That sequence allowed the Raiders to hold off the Mustangs 27-20 in a tense struggle for second place in the NPC on Friday.
“People told me Chris was down, but I really don’t know,” East coach Brian Hinson said. “I do know it boiled down to inches on that play and on some others. It’s just frustrating to lose this one because I think we outplayed ’em.”
At the very least, the Mustangs (8-3, 4-2) played ’em even, and they were definitely the aggressors. Had East scored on that final drive, Hinson would have ordered a decisive 2-point conversion try rather than kicking the PAT for OT.
South (9-2, 5-1) tied the school record for wins in a regular season. The Raiders got out of Granite Quarry alive because they won the turnover battle 4-0, jumping on two fumbles and intercepting two passes. One of the picks was a remarkable, game-changer by B.J. Grant.
“East Rowan fought us and played their butts off just like we knew they would,” said South QB Blake Houston, who ran for two touchdowns and threw for another. “But we kept fighting.”
East junior QB Jamey Blalock threw two TD passes ó catching South by surprise both times on first-down plays ó and ran for the Mustangs’ other score.
“We all played our hearts out,” Blalock said. “We just had too many mistakes. Just too many turnovers and penalties.”
Grant dropped a likely TD pass on South’s opening possession. He atoned later, but that drop led to an East stop, and the energized Mustangs kept momentum a long time.
Blalock’s 58-yard pass to Preston Troutman, who made a juggling grab without breaking stride, gave East a 6-0 lead late in the first quarter
“Brian (Hinson) has got himself one heck of a football team,” South coach Jason Rollins said. “East just came out and smacked us. They kept popping us and kept controlling the ball. We had to wake up and then we had to fight for our lives.”
Houston’s TD pass to Trey House when South faced fourth-and-6 at the East 23 midway through the second quarter got South going. After East fumbled, Thomas Lowe, a former Mustang, broke a 17-yard run to give South a 13-6 halftime edge.
“It was very emotional for me,” said Lowe, who rushed for 131 yards on 17 carries. “This chapter’s done now, and I’m ready for the playoffs.”
East’s Taylor Lester returned the second-half kickoff all the way to the South 27, and Blalock broke a fourth-and-4 option for a tying TD.
Blalock nearly hit Taylor Weber for a go-ahead score behind South’s defense, but Grant, who looked beaten, recovered to make a sprinting, lunging interception.
“I got a little excited and I short-armed that ball a little bit,” Blalock said.
South scored right after the pick when Houston galloped past the Mustangs on a 68-yard sprint for a 20-13 lead.
East answered with a Blalock-to-Weber pass for a 42-yard score and a 20-20 tie with 9:47 remaining.
South responded with a hard-nosed, 75-yard drive that included five runs by Lowe. Houston scored from the 15 on an option to make it 27-20.
“The end committed to Thomas and the linebacker was caught between us, trying to decide,” Houston said.
After a tough kickoff return by Troutman to the South 49, East was back in business with 4:10 remaining. On first-and-10 from the 24, Moore made a strong run for a 7-yard gain, but Glaspy’s forced fumble with 1:19 left saved the Raiders.
“I used my head and got down lower than the ballcarrier and knocked it out,” Glaspy said. “I had to make up for some mistakes I made. This game was tougher than I ever thought it would be.”