Prep Signings: West Rowan linebacker Sifford to West Liberty
By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA — West Rowan senior Quentin Sifford passes the eye test.
He looks like a football player is supposed to look. Specifically, he looks like a linebacker is supposed to look. Sifford weighs 225 pounds and maybe 5 pounds of that isn’t muscle or bone.
Sifford’s biceps would have landed him a role in a Rocky movie if he’d come along earlier. His shoulders are as broad as the deck of an aircraft carrier.
If you were Sifford, you’d walk around in a T-shirt — or without a shirt — as often as possible. In the summer, Sifford probably says, ‘Hey, guys, let’s go to the beach,’ ” every other day.
Sifford has signed with Division II West Liberty in West Virginia. Head coach Roger Waialae, a native of Hawaii, and new linebackers coach Abu Ma’afala did a heck of a job selling the program when Sifford visited the campus along with West defensive back Eric Cowan.
“All the coaches were nice, and I loved everything about West Liberty,” Sifford said. “When we got to our hotel, Coach Ma’afala was there to meet us. It was 12 at night and him being there to make sure we got up there OK, that impressed me. It impressed me a lot. That’s the kind of feeling I had with the coaches at West Rowan.”
Probably Sifford would’ve been an FCS-level recruit if he had another inch or two in the height department. West Liberty’s list of recruits has him at 6-foot-1, but that’s a tad generous.
Sifford was also held back earlier in the recruiting process by not getting his standardized test score taken care of earlier. Some schools passed on him that may not have passed if his transcript had been complete.
“My first trip was down to Wingate, but I didn’t have my SAT scores yet,” Sifford said. “The other school that I was really interested in was North Carolina A&T.”
Sifford will go to West Liberty as part of a West Rowan tag-team that will also include Cowan, a MaxPreps All-American and maybe the first prep All-American ever to sign with West Liberty.
West Liberty, which has put up record-shattering offensive numbers the past two seasons — 82 points in one game in 2010 — draws a lot of West Virginia talent as well as prospects from Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland.
This season, the Hilltoppers landed six players from California and even attracted skilled D-I transfers from Central Florida.
Sifford and Cowan are the only two N.C. signees. Sifford is one of nearly a dozen linebacker hopefuls, but he’s optimistic that he can earn his place in the program.
“I think it’s going to help him a lot that he and Eric are going up there together,” West Rowan coach Scott Young said. “When you go that far from home your chance of success is much greater if you’ve got a support system. We’re hoping this might open up a new D-II pipeline for our players. We’ve got good relationships with Catawba and UNC Pembroke, and this could be another one.”
Sifford said Cowan’s presence will make one decision all college freshmen have to make a lot easier.
“Eric being there means I’ll have a roommate,” Sifford said with a laugh. “We’ll push each other.”
Sifford first attracted attention as a varsity sophomore at East Rowan. He rushed for 479 yards and scored three touchdowns.
As a junior, he was an all-county beast for East, usually going both ways. He missed the first two games in 2009 with a balky knee, but he made an astounding debut with three sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery as East pummeled Concord for the first time in a generation.
In a win against Hickory Ridge that season, he rushed for two TDs and threw for another touchdown on a wobbly halfback pass. Finally, he created a game-sealing interception on defense with a hit on the HR quarterback.
For the season, Sifford rushed for 803 yards and six scores and accumulated 202 rushing yards in East’s two playoff games.
He and his family made the decision to transfer to West for the 2010 season.
It was a tough call for several reasons. Sifford’s father, Walter, was a tremendous lineman at East in the 1970s, and Sifford was very close to a lot of the Mustangs.
But going back to West also meant being reunited with kids he’d gone to West Middle School with and playing for the program where his brother, Travis, had been a wide receiver.
“I think the biggest thing was I really wanted to graduate with those guys I grew up with,” Sifford explained.
Obviously, he also got to play football for a punishing program that has risen from local bully to nationally ranked powerhouse with three straight 3A state championships and 46 consecutive wins.
“Quentin took a leap of faith coming here,” Young said. “He’d gotten quite a few accolades at the running back position, but for us he was going to be strictly a linebacker.”
After a few growing pains adjusting to West’s brand of X’s and O’s, Sifford’s physical tools took over. He’s very strong and surprisingly fast, and he made an impact as West’s “stud” linebacker.
West’s linebackers were a question mark in August but a source of pride by October. They helped coordinator David Hunt’s defense turn in a school-record six shutouts.
Sifford’s best game may have been in a 32-0 win against Mooresville. Sifford had two sacks and had a key fumble recovery that led to a TD.
Sifford gave linebackers coaches Kevin Parks and Lee Linville the lion’s share of the credit for his all-county season.
“They’re the ones who never stopped pushing me to get to where I needed to be,” Sifford said.
Sifford’s high school career had a happy ending — 16-0 and a state title.
“I got a ring and I got a scholarship,” Sifford said. “That’s a great year. I don’t see how it could have worked out any better.”