East-West Football: West 19, East 7: Rowan stars shine
By Ryan Bisesi
GREENSBORO — For John Knox and Javon Hargrave, it was time to break out some firsts heading into their final high school football game at Jamieson Stadium at the East-West All-Star game.
After throwing 47 career touchdown passes for Salisbury, Wednesday night included Knox’s first touchdown catch of his high school career. The end of the night saw North Rowan’s Hargrave dump rival coach Joe Pinyan with the water bucket after the 19-7 West win for what had to be a first.
Oh, and both those gentlemen won MVP awards. It would be hard to compile a better ending for two of the county’s most revered seniors with Knox winning the offensive MVP and Hargrave taking the defensive award.
“A Rowan County sweep, wasn’t it?,” Pinyan said. “I told John ‘You’ve written a miraculous book, but you’ve got one chapter left to finish it. He put a storybook ending for that book he’s writing.”
Knox made the game’s signature play on a 50-yard touchdown catch to cap a period of 13 points in 10 seconds in the second quarter. Knox, who quarterbacked Salisbury to a state title last year, ran a slant route over the middle and caught a delivery from Lincolnton’s Brandon Wilson around the 25 and curved into the end zone on the other side of the field.
“Words can’t even explain it,” Knox said. “We held it down for Rowan County.”
“I think he might have thrown it to himself, I don’t remember,” Pinyan joked. “It was an unbelievable catch.”
West jumped out to a 16-0 lead in a game that was never in much doubt. East was contained to 2.8 yards per rush and lost two fumbles. It was a defensive struggle on a night where the heat index stayed in the 90’s throughout.
Knox’s play came after Pinyan called for an onside kick following a touchdown. North Davidson’s Shawn Williams gently nubbed it to midfield and waited for the ball to reach 10 yards before clamping down on it.
“They were moved up there but still didn’t expect it,” Pinyan said.
They say all-star games are showcases for the offense, but “Hollywood” Hargrave wasted no time living up to his nickname.
The burly North Rowan lineman, about to report to South Carolina State, gave the Tar Heel state a final glimpse of his talent. Any question about how a 1A player would fare against bigger classifications was answered with brevity. Hargrave recovered a fumble on the first play of the game and finished with team-best 2.5 tackles for loss, and five total tackles, second-best.
“I just wanted to make big plays and prove I could play with the big dogs,” said Hargrave, who called it the turning point of his career. “We knew if the D-line stepped up and made big plays, we’d win this easy.”
Hargrave was part of a West defense that forced three turnovers on East’s first three possessions, setting the tone for a game that would see East gain just 74 yards of total offense in the first half and just three first downs. West led 16-0 at halftime.
“Javon’s a guy that’s been overlooked,” Pinyan said. “I don’t know if it’s because he plays at at 1A school or what, but he’s really talented and a great football player.”
Hargrave claimed that he and Knox, who were roommates for the week leading up to the game, plotted their MVP performances the night before, staying up until 4 a.m.
“We couldn’t go to sleep,” Hargrave said. “We kept talking to each other about how much we were going to go out here and kill.”
They were quite crafty.
NOTE: Trey Mashore, a instrumental part of West Rowan’s dynasty, was contained to minus-11 yards on punt returns but finished with three tackles as did A.L. Brown’s Andrew Leslie. … Knox had 49 yards on 14 carries. … The East added its only touchdown on a 1-yard-push by Walter Ellerbe two plays after East recovered a fumble inside the West 10.