Prep Football Notebook: Week 1
From staff reports
West Rowan fans might think Tuesday’s earthquake coinciding with the Falcons’ 46-game win streak coming to an end signals the end of days.
Truth be told, Week 1 was just a crummy night for streaks across the state. In addition to West finally going down, Butler’s 31 game win-streak snapped with a 28-20 loss against Mallard Creek. Tarboro (24 straight) and Albemarle (12 straight) also lost while Cary Green Hope had its 0-38 skid end, fittingly, with a 38-0 win at Smithfield-Selma. Central Cabarrus had dropped 35 consecutive before beating South Rowan.
Coach Scott Young has promised a new streak, as well as a continued defense of the other streak the Falcons have going for them.
Three straight championships.
“Let me go on record, the streak is very important,” Young said. “But we’re more proud of our three straight championships then we are of that.”
It was the first season-opening loss for the Falcons since 2004 against Davie. West hadn’t lost a game it led at halftime since a 20-18 loss to West Iredell in 2007.
“We all knew the day would come sometime,” Young said . “First games are very scary and that team’s a good team.”
QBs: Falcon fans used to seeing B.J. Sherrill under center for the last three seasons may have to get used to a pair of new faces.
Seniors Zay Laster, a new comer to the program, and Connor Edwards, last year’s backup, had experienced Dinkin Miller to hand off to, but when it came time to pass, they struggled in the early going.
Laster peaked on a fourth down conversion in the second quarter, finding Desmond Jackson for a 36-yard touchdown pass that completed the scoring for West.
“We’ve got to get Jackson involved in the offense more,” Young said. “We’ll keep developing those quarterbacks and we’ll be fine.”
West only earned three first downs in the second half, one of which came via a roughing the passer penalty.
“Our inability to make first downs in the second half is what helped wear our defense down,” Young said.
DEFENSE: The Falcons stopped Mooresville inside the red zone twice in the first half, forcing the Blue Devils to settle for nothing on the board in the first two quarters. The opening drive of the game ended when Zeke Blackwood sacked Deonte Black on fourth-and-4 with Mooresville 10 yards from the end zone.
Late in the second quarter, Mooresville stalled at the 19 after two straight incomplete passes turned it over on downs.
“That’s what got us to the 14-0 lead,” Young said.
However, the Blue Devils ran for 104 yards in the second half with Black leading the charge. The senior quarterback ended up with a game-high 121 yards on the ground.
Salisbury didn’t do much wrong on opening night.
A 51-0 romp against East Rowan marked the 11th straight victory for the Hornets, who won their last 10 on their way to the 2010 2AA state championship.
The school record of 13 in a row was established by teams coached by Conrad Green. Salisbury won its 1994 finale to finish 5-5, then won its first 12 games of the 1995 season before losing in the third round of the playoffs to Thomasville.
Boyden teams won 12 in a row in 1957-58, winning the last eight in 1957 on the way to a state title and the first four in 1958.
Ties were fairly frequent in the 1960s and 1970s before teams started playing tiebreaking overtime periods. Pete Stout-coached teams once went a stretch of 16 games without a loss, winning their last four in 1969, then posting 10 wins and two ties in the first dozen games of the 1970 season before falling to Shelby in the WNCHSAA championship game.
DEFENSE: Salisbury finished last season with a shutout in the state title game and opened this season with another one.
It’s the first time since 2002, when the Hornets blanked East Davidson and West Iredell back-to-back, that Salisbury has posted back-to-back shutouts.
Who played well for Salisbury’s defense?
Besides a pick-6 by DB Quan Davis, an interception by linebacker Keion Adams and a fumble recovery by lineman Jared Hardin, there was sophomore linebacker Clint Comadoll, who poured through East blockers for a pair of sacks.
Hardin was named defensive player of the week by the coaching staff.
Linebacker Kavari Hillie absolutely leveled East backs on two occasions, Travis “Bang Bang” Byrd had a sack, and lineman Scott Givens was involved in several tackles for loss.
Robbie Moulton, Bobby Johnson and Sam Humble, guys who were starting a varsity game for the first time, performed admirably
“We did play pretty good,” admitted Salisbury coach Joe Pinyan said. “But the reality is that we all know we can play a whole lot better.”
BAD — AND GOOD NEWS: Salisbury DB B.J. Woods was disqualified from Friday’s game in the second quarter.
“B.J. said he was trying to fight off a block, but the official felt like he threw a punch,” Pinyan explained.
Once officials had a chance to examine the film, Woods was quickly exonerated. He was allowed to play in Salisbury’s soccer matches this week, and he’ll play Friday against North Rowan.
KICKING GAME: Kicker Michael Mazur was an easy choice for special teams player of the week. He was 6-for-6 on PATS, had a booming 40-yard punt that East’s Wesley LeRoy had to field with an acrobatic lunge and made a 35-yard field goal.
DEPTH CONCERNS: Salisbury is talented in the offensive backfield but not deep.
Pinyan had to use jayvee Travon Ellis extensively after fullback Max Allen was temporarily knocked out of the game.
Cougars coach Mark Woody brought up freshmen running backs Kamerick Alexander and Brandon Sloop for the opener against North Rowan, mainly to get them some experience.
“I’m glad we did,” chirped Woody after a 16-6 victory over the Cavaliers.
Alexander and Sloop combined for 35 yards rushing (30 from Alexander) after starting tailback Travis Abbitt went out early with a shoulder injury.
“I actually thought Travis got hurt on the opening kickoff,” Woody said. “He just wasn’t himself.”
Abbitt retired after rushing six times for 40 yards. He was seen at practice on Monday wearing a sling.
GOOD DECISION, COACH: Deep inside, Woody knew he wanted Dontae Gilbert in the secondary, but should he play him at quarterback as well?
The answer was no. Woody started sophomore Austin McNeil and gave him a grade of B in his first varsity start.
“I thought he’d be a lot more nervous than he was,” Woody said of McNeil. “He didn’t show it. We felt we could coach Austin up. We needed Dontae more on defense.”
Both made their coach look good. McNeil threw two touchdown passes and Gilbert came up with an interception.
“Dontae’s a tremendous talent for us,” said Woody of Gilbert, who also returns kicks.”
IMPRESSIVE PRESSLEY: Could Carson replace all-everything receiver Cody Clanton?
K.J. Pressley, a lanky 6-3 junior, proved the Cougars could, grabbing McNeil’s two scoring passes.
“He has to have games like that for us to be good,” Woody said.
BIG-PLAY BRIDGES: Credit Connor Bridges with an interception on the 1-yard line that stopped a North Rowan drive in Friday’s win.
NICK OF TIME: Nick Martin has come full circle in his career. As a sophomore, the Cougar was in the secondary. As a junior, he was a linebacker. Now, he’s on the line, helping man-child Jeremiah Smith stop the run. He’s a defensive end.
The most devastating injury of the week was to a North Rowan star.
Pierre Givens, Tasker Fleming’s top returning receiver and backup quarterback, is out for six to eight weeks with a hairline fracture and torn ligaments in his wrist.
“He was going to get some snaps at quarterback,” Fleming said, noting Givens had thrown a TD pass and rushed for 30 yards in a recent scrimmage.
Also going down with a deep bruise on his hand was transfer tight end/defender Tyler Watlington.
“The injuries caught us off-guard,” Fleming said.
WHO BLOCKED IT? No one could determine what Cavalier blocked the early punt that gave them a 6-0 lead.
“Truth is, we blocked their up-back into the ball,” Fleming said. “On film it looked like we got a good push from three guys.”
Jalen Cook took it in for the score.
DEFENSIVE STARS: Fleming was impressed with Oshon West and Jake Becker.
West came back to North after an uneventful year at North Hills Christian School. Becker is a transfer from Lake Norman.
“Oshon had a great night at defensive end,” Fleming praised. “They rarely got too far upfield. Becker was solid inside.”
A ground-oriented program for decades, South has employed stellar running QBs such as Blake Houston Hoke Shirley and Kevin Sides, but the Raiders had a different sort of look in Friday’s 31-23 loss at Central Cabarrus.
Junior Nathan Lambert threw for 230 yards, not far from the school record 242 that Charles Sherrill tossed for against Northwest Cabarrus in 1997, a wild 39-28 victory in which Sherrill also set a school mark with five touchdown passes.
South’s most recent 200-yard passing game was a 231-yard effort by Ivan Corriher in a 63-20 loss in the season finale against Mount Tabor in 2006.
The only other 200-yard passing effort a South QB had managed since Sherrill’s breakout was 211 yards by Corriher in a 35-31 loss to Mooresville in 2005.
It appears extremely likely that South has never had two receivers with 100 yards receiving in the same game — a feat accomplished by Brandon Williams (113) and Josh Medlin (102) on Friday.
East coach Chad Tedder expected his team to be more competitive on opening night against Salisbury than it turned out to be in a numbing loss that was decided before halftime.
East’s offense was nonexistent for four quarters, with 12 plays gaining zero yards or losing real estate. That put the defense, which actually began the night playing well, in some difficult situations.
The Mustangs’ biggest rushing gain all night was 6 yards, and East quarterbacks Jonathan Lowe and Jordan Phillips combined for one short pass completion and had two passes picked off. They were sacked five times attempting to pass.
“We got some people dinged up upfront where we really couldn’t afford to get anybody dinged up,” Tedder explained. “And with Salisbury bringing six and seven guys, we just couldn’t block ’em. Then things snowballed on us.”
Lineman Dock Corpening and linebacker Tyler L’hommedieu were notable on East’s defense.
Sophomore running back Calvin Edwards and fullback Corey Darrah didn’t stop fighting for yardage even after things got out of hand.
Edwards showed fine speed on kickoff returns (obviously, Salisbury was kicking off with alarming frequency). He produced two long returns, including one that he fielded on his own 5 and brought back to the SHS 40.
SUPPORT: East fans turned out in droves for the opener, overwhelming, bleachers-filling support that the Mustangs will need again if they’re going to compete at home in Week 2.
The opponent is Concord, which features 6-foot-7 quarterback B.J. Beecher and Division I tight end Terrance Knox, so it’s not going to get any easier against a school that is 33-3-1 against the Mustangs and beat 4A West Charlotte on opening night.
“We can’t forget the Salisbury game, but we’ve got to move past it and go back to work like we’re still 0-0,” Tedder said.
RECORD-TYING: The loss to Salisbury matched the most lopsided opening-night setback in history for the Mustangs, who fell at home to West Rowan by an identical 51-0 score in 2005.
When the Wonders lost Hunter Morris to a broken leg in their Green-White scrimmage, they not only lost their starting center they lost the veteran who made the calls for the offensive line.
Senior Phillip Halstenburg, a starting guard, has assumed leadership of the offensive line. He’s 45 pounds lighter than the 250-pound Morris, but he moved to center and performed admirably in a 43-24 win against Shelby.
Halstenburg received “Hog of the Week” honors from the coaching staff.
SAFETY NET: Senior safety Kaleel Hollis earned praise from coach Mike Newsome for his work against Shelby.
“He was strong in coverage and very good in run support,” Newsome said. “He made open-field tackles.”
HEEL CONNECTION: Damien Washington, who scored three TDs on Friday, has committed to North Carolina’s football program.
He’ll be joining Travis Riley, one of last season’s Brown heroes, in Chapel Hill.
“No and yes,” said Washington when asked if Riley’s presence influenced his college decision. “No, because UNC’s a place I’ve wanted to go since I was a little kid. I’m going there because it’s a great school academically and because I like the football program, not because Travis is there. But the other part of that is I’m glad someone I already know will be there. Travis being at UNC makes it that much better.”