Wineka column: Is West Rowan state championship worth a day off?
RALEIGH ó Now that West Rowan High has won its second straight N.C. football championship, students have a suggestion on how the school in Mount Ulla should celebrate.
A day off for everyone, especially the players.
“This is a big win, and they deserve it,” senior Alicia Turner said as the Falcon team celebrated on the field at Carter-Finley Stadium Saturday afternoon after a 28-21 win over Eastern Alamance.
The group of kids around her perked up when they heard Turner’s suggestion. They were spent, hoarse from yelling and tired from standing virtually the whole game.
They had gotten up early in the morning to make the two hour-plus trip to N.C. State’s home for football. Many had dyed their hair or painted their fingernails the Columbia blue color of the Falcons.
They brought their homemade signs, and drew on their faces. To fight the December cold, they buried themselves under scarves, blankets and insulated coats.
At school, the week leading up to Saturday’s championship game was distracting. On Friday, school officials played the Falcon fight song over the public address system during every change in classes.
“It kind of got annoying,” senior Brandy Harris said. Then there was the Friday afternoon pep rally in the gym followed by a championship game with some highly anxious moments. The undefeated Falcons trailed going into the final quarter after blowing a 20-0 lead.
All of a sudden, after a nail-biting fourth quarter and a Falcon rally to win, a day off sounded like a great idea.
But first things first. How would everyone celebrate Saturday once they got home?
“We’re going to get together and party,” junior Bransyn Motley promised.
Falcon Nation had unwavering faith in its team, which has now won 30 consecutive games over two seasons. Falcon fans worshiped running back and University of Virginia commitment K.P. Parks, who entered the championship game with 55 touchdowns on the season.
By day’s end, he would have 59.
59? Double wow.
But Falcon pride in the whole team and its “We are the U” chemistry made this a special season.
As East Alamance surged back into the game and cut West’s lead to 20-14 at halftime, Teresa Hosch still believed.
“I come with faith,” said Hosch, whose son Kendall played defense for West. “After halftime, they’re going to come back refreshed and ready to go.”
Her longtime friend, Sherry Dunlap, agreed.
“They’re going to come back with a new attitude, she predicted.
But it was Eastern Alamance that controlled the third quarter and took a 21-20 lead. When Parks scored his fourth TD of the game and West completed a two-point conversion to put the Falcons back in front, there was still 11:36 left in the game.
A time-consuming offensive drive and stout defense, led by a sack-crazy Chris Smith, clinched things, however.
“No doubts,” Jim Rich said when asked if he had been fretting the outcome. “Never doubt the boys in blue.”
Rich, whose son, Nolan, is an offensive lineman, wore a red Santa’s hat to also show his affection for the N.C. State Wolfpack.
Confidence in the Falcons was running especially high before the game started, then swelled when the team went out to a 20-0 lead.
A group of West Rowan ROTC buddies ó Sarah Denaux, Cortney Shoemaker and Christine Mosser ó wore their blue hair with pride.
“We’re going to kill them,” Mosser predicted. “We’re going to lick them good.”
She laughed after she said it. Someone kidded her the day before that it may not be a good idea for the ROTC to give her a gun.
“We love our Falcon football,” Mosser explained.
The stands were filled with West Rowan graduates who have remained fiercely loyal to their school since leaving years ago.
Shane and Becky Brock were spending part of their wedding anniversary weekend at the championship game. Shane graduated from West in 1989; Becky, a former cheerleader, in 1996.
They were traveling back and forth from a getaway spot on Lake Tillery, while their young children were with the grandparents.
“The 6-year-old is kind of mad we’re here without them,” Becky said.
The Brocks live two minutes from the school and, even since graduation, have tried to attend as many home football games as possible.
“We’re so used to walking all over people,” Becky said of West’s chances going into the game. “I don’t think we’ll walk all over them, but I think we’ll win.”
Again, confidence in Falcon nation.
West Rowan graduate Teresa Sheets of Salisbury may have some fences to mend at home after taking her two nieces, Brandy and Brittany Harris, to the game.
Her son attends Salisbury High, one of West Rowan’s fiercest rivals.
But the decision was simple for Sheets. Brittany, a West senior, and Brady, a 2006 West grad, wanted to go, and “I want to see them win a second state championship.”
Jordan Newman, a senior at West, said she probably started attending her first Falcon football games as a social outing. But the more she went, the more she picked up about the game.
“Now I know a little more,” she said. “I made a point to come to this one because it’s my last year and everything.”
There were some fans who had no allegiances to either West Rowan or Eastern Alamance. Jeffrey Novak, who lives in Apex, brought his 7-year-old grandson, Adam Bowling of Cary, to the game because the youngster just loves football.
They made a bet. Adam picked West Rowan because their blue uniforms reminded him of his favorite college team, the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. Novak took Eastern Alamance.
They agreed the loser had to fix a clogged toilet, Novak said.
Get out the plunger, Jeff.
This past week, West Rowan Head Football Coach Scott Young spoke to his daughter’s second-grade class at Woodleaf Elementary. Staff member Marian Lytle, who attended Saturday’s game, sat in on the class and said Young talked to the kids about having having the right priorities and how something like football, for him, was not at the top of the list.
God, family and school came first, he said, followed by finding out what your passion is, then pursuing it.
Scott’s passion has always been football, his mother, Betty, said Saturday as she stood on the field at Carter-Finley Stadium and smiled at the Falcon celebration.
“I’m so proud,” Betty Young said. “This was special.”
Need we say it again?
A day off for everyone.