Prep Football Playoffs: West Rowan 28, Asheville 14
By Mike London
email@example.comMOUNT ULLA ó West Rowan tailback K.P. Parks scored his fourth touchdown of the night and 50th of the season to seal a 28-14 struggle with previously unbeaten Asheville.
News that followed was equally energizing for Falcon fans. Tuscola rallied to knock off No. 1 seed Lenoir Hibriten 28-27. That kept second-seeded West (14-0) at home for next Friday’s regional championship game. Fans had already started making travel plans when No. 4 seed Tuscola (12-1-1) and Shrine Bowl quarterback Tyler Brosius ended the top seed’s season.West’s season didn’t end on Friday, but it received its sternest test since it escaped Salisbury’s Ludwig Stadium in September.
“This win means two straight years in the Western finals, and that just feels great,” said tackle Davon Quarles, a roadgrader who has helped Parks score 149 career TDs. “This one felt like a championship game. Asheville was big, a very tough team, but we wouldn’t back down.”
West won its 28th straight game and is the first Rowan County team ever to be 14-0, but coach Scott Young entered the night as concerned as he’s been all season.
“Usually we identify the three or four things we want to take away defensively, but Asheville has seven or eight things, and we really didn’t know if we could stop ’em,” he said. “We also go into most games knowing there are things that will work for us offensively, but coming into tonight nothing was sure.”
Parks is always close to a sure thing, but he had to fight for most of his 196 yards. He carried 30 times, banging away relentlessly for 5s, 6s and 7s. He broke one for 20, another for 24, but their were no 50-yard highlight clips.
“This was a game we had to use our physicality,” Parks said. “The coaches told us Asheville had lots of guys going both ways, and we had to just pound and pound it. We finally tired them out, wore them down.”
Young gave Asheville (11-1-1) the highest possible compliment.
“Playing them was like playing in a mirror,” he said. “They are very similar to us.”
West’s defense dominated the first half. Nose Eli Goodson, who left last week’s game with an ankle injury, was a terror with three stops for loss. Linebacker Josh Poe and tackle Mackel Gaither were equally fierce.
West rolled 76 yards on its second possession for a 7-0 lead. Parks had his 24-yard burst, QB B.J. Sherrill passed to KaJuan Phillips and Jon Crucitti for chain-movers, and Parks smashed in from the 9 for the TD.
West had another 76-yard march in the second quarter, overcoming a second-and-28 situation that followed an intentional grounding call. Parks dashed for 19, Sherrill hit Crucitti for 16, and the chains moved. Parks barreled 14 yards for the TD, and Bertin Suarez’ PAT made it 14-0.
Asheville had a strong drive late in the half wrecked by a chop-block penalty, but it finally was making positive plays. That carried over.
“They’ve got some pride, they’ve got some class, and they’re a good football team,” West defensive coordinator David Hunt. “And the second half, we came out a little flat.”
Asheville made it 14-7 with a long drive fueled by a 37-yard pass completion from Brandon Whiteside to Shrine Bowl tight end Trevor Sawyer.
West responded. Sherrill hit Phillips for 37 yards to move the ball deep into Asheville territory.
Young had a decision to make when the Falcons bogged down with fourth-and-2 at the 5. He said no thanks to the almost certain field goal and went for the knockout.
The plan was to get Sherrill to the right edge along with Crucitti for a run-pass option, but Sherrill fumbled. West was fortunate lineman Charles Holloway recovered past the first-down marker. Parks scored on the next play for a 21-7 lead.
It wasn’t over. Asheville moved 66 yards, scored on Whiteside’s pass to the towering, 6-foot-6 Sawyer and trailed 21-14 with 5:50 remaining.
West had muffed a sky kick earlier and had been lucky to fall on it. This time Asheville coach Danny Wilkins opted for an onside kick. The execution was good, but Sherrill got on it.
“That was big ó the first time I’ve ever recovered an onside kick,” the junior quarterback said. “But we practice that a lot and I was prepared.”
After his recovery at the West 45, Sherrill and the offense faced a critical moment with 5:40 left to play. Asheville had scored TDs on back-to-back possessions, and the Falcons knew they couldn’t give the ball back.
“Our defense had been on the field a lot, more than they have been all year,” Parks said. “We wanted to get a touchdown, but we knew at the very least we had to use up some clock and let our defense rest a little.”
On the Falcons’ first play, Parks broke through for his 20-yard run, dragging tacklers to the Asheville 35. Parks would account for 50 yards on the 55-yard drive that clinched it.
Parks burrowed in off the left side for the drive-home-safely score with 1:44 remaining.
“We knew Parks was a great back, but we’ve faced other good ones this year,” Wilkins said. “Our guys hung in there, left it all out there, but we had several guys in the trenches two ways. That probably did make the difference, but there were also a couple of times that ball was bouncing around loose out there, and if we can get either of those, we’ve still got a pretty good chance to win this thing.”
While fans almost take West wins for granted, this one required a little extra from everyone in blue.
“Asheville had not lost and they were very hard to beat,” Young said. “Top-notch talent, well-coached and in the hunt every year. This was quite an accomplishment for our kids.”