2011 Football: West win streak: 46 and counting
By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA ó It was early May, and college assistant coaches were making the recruiting rounds.
ěWell, I found it,î chuckled strapping East Carolina assistant Brandon Jones, as he plopped down on an ancient couch in West Rowan head coach Scott Youngís office.
Many college coaches are now finding it necessary to locate the tiny town of Mount Ulla ó population 2,557.
Itís not complicated. Just drive 11 miles into the country from Salisbury. Pass the cows, go right at the church, make a left at the second cornfield. If you hear grunts and the crashing of heavy weights, youíve found West Rowan. If you find yourself in Mooresville, youíve gone too far.
Rural Mount Ulla is an unlikely home for the nationís longest prep winning streak, but it is what it is. Westís Falcons have won 46 in a row and three straight 3A titles.
Even with the most daunting schedule in school history looming, and even without the QB who started all 46 of those wins, they donít expect to back down against anyone.
Itís their mindset. Itís a hard mindset and a confident mindset. Maybe itís a crazy mindset. If the New England Patriots showed up in Mount Ulla, 11 of Youngís Falcons would argue over who got to sack Tom Brady first.
ěOur schedule for this season is scary,î Young admitted. ěBut, at the same time, it has to be scary for any team to have West Rowan on their schedule.î
Westís non-conference schedule isnít just frightening ó itís borderline insane. Everyone wants a piece of the Falcons. Theyíll get it.
Mooresville and Davie County, stout 4A neighbors, will take their best shot, as they do annually. Davie, the last team to beat West, early in the 2008 season, played in the 4A title game in 2010.
Salisbury, which won the 2AA state title last December, hasnít beaten West in a long while, but itís stood toe-to-toe with the Falcons recently.
Perennial power Reidsville canít wait to end Westís streak. Ditto South Carolina bully South Pointe.
Besides that non-league gauntlet, Statesville and West Iredell, the Falconsí NPC rivals, have been building, are very talented and will likely prove a handful.
Most teams would be looking at 3-8. The Falcons expect to meet each challenge head-on, one rugged opponent at a time. And if they do fall, theyíll get right back up.
ěWeíre proud of the winning streak, but one of the reasons weíve won 46 in a row is we havenít talked a lot about it, havenít gotten caught up in it,î Young explained. ěWeíve done a pretty good job of staying grounded. Our coaching focus and our kidsí focus has always been on that next game. Right now, weíre thinking about winning that 47th, and thatís all weíre thinking about.î
Youngís mantra is ěRespect everyone; fear no one,î and Columbia-blue clad Falcons from Mount Ulla, Cleveland, Woodleaf, Bear Poplar and the outskirts of Salisbury have bought in to that creed for more than a decade.
Westís work ethic has always been superior to most, and Youngís experienced staff has been more stable than most. Mesh those two factors with a bumper crop of gifted, tenacious athletes, and special things have taken place out in the country.
To understand where West Rowan is now, you have to know where it came from.
The school opened in 1959 and enjoyed just two winning seasons from 1959-1985, while competing in the North Piedmont Conference with schools such as Mooresville, North Rowan and North Davidson.
Expanded playoffs in 1985 brought the schoolís first taste of postseason action, but coach Raymond Daughertyís Falcons were flattened 48-0 by Statesville in the first round.
West made progress over the next eight years as a member of the South Piedmont Conference. In 1987-88, West qualified for the NCHSAA playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time under coach Randall Ward.
A 14-0 victory over South Iredell in 1988 marked Westís first playoff victory ever. Falcon fans had waited 30 years.
West spent the 1993-96 seasons in the 2A Yadkin Valley Conference, and the 1994 squad, coached by Ron Raper, established a modest school record for victories with nine.
When Young, who played at East Rowan and Guilford before serving as an assistant at Davie, was hired prior to the 1998 season, Westís school record for wins was still nine, West had yet to see the third round of the playoffs without a ticket and owned zero conference championships.
West was back in the South Piedmont Conference with A.L. Brown, Concord and Northwest Cabarrus for Youngís first three seasons. His first year was a forgettable 3-8 that included a 54-6 pummeling by A.L. Brown and Nick Maddox.
His second season, the Falcons didnít make the playoffs, but they were 8-3 and swept their Rowan County rivals.
Youngís third season ó 2000 ó was the breakthrough. Back-to-back-to-back wins against Northwest Cabarrus, A.L. Brown and Concord, with Concord and NWC on the road, led to an SPC championship. It had taken 42 seasons for the Falcons to be able to call themselves conference champions, but Young made it possible.
The Falcons returned to the NPC in 2001, shared the conference title in 2004 and have won six straight outright titles since. The Falcons own 26 straight NPC wins, and theyíve taken 47 out of 48. The last time they lost a conference road game was in 2003.
West owned a gaudy 13-0 record when it made its first ever trip to the third round in 2005 and was hammered 34-10 by nemesis A.L. Brown.
Westís great tailback K.P. Parks arrived on the scene in 2006. He would rush for 10,895 yards and 158 TDs in his four-season career. He and fellow All-American Chris Smith, a fabulous defensive lineman, elevated the program to new heights.
The most important game in West history was the 2008 third-round playoff game against a Winston-Salem Carver squad that appeared to have West out-quicked in Mount Ulla for three quarters.
West pulled that one out with two trick plays ó a TD pass thrown by receiver Jon Crucitti and a daring 50-yard run with a faked punt by Austin Greenwood, who scored the deciding TD with five minutes left.
That dazzling victory was No. 12 in the current streak. It also was the landmark win that brought belated acknowledgement of Young and his assistants as a great coaching staff. The Falcons havenít looked back.
None of Westís three state championship victories were cakewalks, but West was clearly the superior team. West won last December even with star QB B.J. Sherrill sitting down after suffering an early concussion.
Statistically, West was more dominant than ever in 2010. Defensive coordinator David Huntís crew posted a school-record six shutouts.
Young enjoyed his first state title and savored the second one. But it was the third one, achieved after Parks had moved on to Virginia and Smith headed to Arkansas, that made him proudest. Not a lot of people outside the program saw it coming.
ěWeíd lost four All-State players and two All-Americans, and I know a lot of people were saying, ëOK, letís see what they do without K.P.í î Young said. ěOur guys answered the bell and did it in convincing fashion.înThe office where Young and his braintrust spends its off-field time is a busy, congested space near the showers. The room is filled with game tapes, pictures of championship teams and a framed photo of Youngís hero Paul ěBearî Bryant.
Youngís own son is named Bryant, which tells you about the high esteem with which he holds the Crimson Tide.
Young has been around long enough to know the program he leads has its work cut out this season. Heís playing almost everyone except Alabama and graduation hit hard.
Gone besides Sherrill are two tremendous offensive linemen who provided leadership, pass protection and clear paths to the end zone.
Gone is one of the best contingent of DBs in area history, including All-American Eric Cowan and Georgia Tech signee Domonique Noble.
But the cupboard is far from bare. The top two tailbacks return, including Dinkin Miller, who ran wild in the 3A state championship game.
The wide receivers were young in 2010, and assistant Joe Nixon has already identified four offensive lineman he feels very good about.
Exceptional defenders return in the front seven. Young believes his linebacking corps could be awesome. Junior Logan Stoodley was defensive MVP in the state championship game.
ěI think our guys had an excellent spring,î Young said. ěThen we had a big summer that should prepare us for about anything.î
West participated in the Carolina Panthersí annual 7-on-7 camp and traveled to the football hotbed of Hoover, Ala., for more 7-on-7 drills.
Those competitive scraps helped coaches make final decisions about quarterback and soothed their worries about the secondary.
ěI think our kids expect success now, and thatís such a big part of the battle,î Young said. ěWe know weíve got a tough challenge ahead, but weíve got a chance to be good again.î
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