Prep football: Falcons unfazed by target
By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA ó There have been 53 Super Bowls and only eight repeat champions.
There have been no three-peaters. It’s difficult to “do it again.”
In part, that’s due to the challenge of duplicating the hunger, fire and energy required to win the first one and partly due to an invisible bull’s-eye being placed on every football player’s jersey for the follow-up season. West Rowan’s impressive streaks under coach Scott Young ó 29 straight wins overall, 33 straight intracounty wins and a 42-2 run in the NPC that has brought six straight conference titles to Mount Ulla ó have made it easy for every opponent to get up for the Falcons.
Throw in celebrated tailback K.P. Parks’ charge toward state and national records, and it’s been even easier to get fired up to stop Parks (10,741 career yards and counting) and the Falcons.
Still, no one’s accomplished that mission.
Davie, the last team to beat West, came close again.
Salisbury also came close ó Hornet Dejoun Jones was out of bounds by inches in the end zone late in that game on a pass play that would have made it 14-13, with the PAT pending.Asheville and Tuscola also took their best shot.
The mountain teams found enough cracks in West’s defense in the playoffs to remind everyone just how good guys such as Nate Dulin, Austin Greenwood and Kenderic Dunlap were in 2008, but the Falcons still had enough offense to advance to Saturday’s 3A championship game at N.C. State’s Carter-Finley Stadium.
Veteran linebacker Josh Poe’s fumble recovery early in the fourth quarter, with Tuscola driving for a potential tying score, was the critical play of a 38-29 victory Friday.
“We had a little trouble stopping those guys,” Parks said. “But when we had to have a big play, the defense made one for us.”
Tuscola coach Donnie Kiefer said all the obligatory things pregame about not keying on Parks, but the Mountaineers did key. They put eight in the box and slowed him in the first half. Parks’ first six carries netted only 17 bruising yards, and he needed 21 carries to get 133 yards in the first half.
West still led 17-7 at halftime because QB B.J. Sherrill, who surpassed 2,000 passing yards for the season, had already gone to the air 20 times, with completions to Parks, wideouts Jon Crucitti and KaJuan Phillips and fullback Coleman Phifer. Sherrill had not thrown more than 18 times in a game all season.
West experienced potentially disastrous back-to-backs when an illegal procedure penalty turned a second-and-goal at the 1 into second down at the 6, and Sherrill threw an interception that was nearly returned for a TD on the next play. Phillips made the saving tackle after a long chase.
West coaches made two key calls Friday, the first being an unexpected 21-yard run by Parks in the final seconds of the half to set up a field goal.
They also called for a snap to up-man Eric Cowan on a faked punt on fourth-and-2 near midfield. Cowan rambled 32 yards to set up a TD.
Fans who have watched the Falcons execute that play in that situation for many years saw that one coming, but Tuscola didn’t.
West (15-0) had 522 yards of offense Friday to clear the final hurdle before it takes on Eastern Alamance (14-1) and outstanding quarterback Lamar Ivey for another championship.
The last area program to win everything in sight back-to-back was coach Pete Stout’s Salisbury teams that took WNCHSAA crowns in 1973-74.
A.L. Brown had a chance to go back-to-back when it won the 3A championship in 1997 and brought the amazing Nick Maddox back for another run in 1998.
The Wonders won their first 13 games that year, when they were even more explosive than in 1997, but they were a little smaller, didn’t have quite the same chemistry and fell to Kings Mountain in the third round. Maddox’s final game at Kannapolis’ Memorial Stadium was a devastating loss, and the Wonders’ victory tour came to an abrupt end.
Parks, the area’s first national football figure since Maddox, had an opportunity to celebrate a win in his final game in front of the home fans and went out the way he wanted to go out in Mount Ulla with 292 yards rushing and five touchdowns.
It’s tough to repeat, but West is in position to do so. No previous county team had gone 14-0, much less 15-0, but West has earned the chance to defend its title.
“For this senior class to get back to the championship game, it’s very special,” Crucitti said.