Prep Football: West Rowan 22, Statesville 15
By Ryan Bisesi
MOUNT ULLA — Dinkin Miller had to be, and was, the great eight for West Rowan Friday night.
On the game’s last touchdown, Miller ran through the Statesville defense, past the final 14 yards and out of the end zone in an almost Forrest Gump-like moment.
It was indicative of a game where Miller never stopped running as he amassed a season-best 144 yards and scored three touchdowns in West’s 22-15 win against Statesville.
The Falcons, appearing vulnerable after an 2-2 start, bolstered their NPC reputation with their 27th consecutive conference win.
At the end of a vicious five-game stretch to open the season, West came out missing three starters, but came through with a crucial triumph it need to start the NPC campaign.
“Our team needed a win in a bad way,” West coach Scott Young said. “To get a tough conference win without three starters was big for our program. We needed this.”
With quarterback Zay Laster out, Miller and Desmond Jackson combined for 51 carries and 244 yards rushing, and the defense held Statesville to minus-2 yards on the ground.
“Tonight I worked extra hard to pick up everyone on offense,” Miller said. “I was excited to play and I was refreshed.”
West trailed early in the fourth quarter after Statesville went up on a touchdown pass from Tristan Mumford to Kender Thompson.
“We were facing a defense with nine out of 11 starters back from last year,” West coach Scott Young said. “It wasn’t an easy defense to run against.”
Coming off a five-turnover performance against South Pointe, S.C., it was imperative for West to limit the mistakes.
It did, for the most part, although Connor Edwards’ briefly lost focus in the third quarter and had a pass to Jarvis Morgan go to defensive back Breon Borders. Borders went 81 yards for a touchdown to give the Greyhounds an 8-7 advantage.
“Probably the best part of the win was the resiliency we showed after losing the lead,” Young said. “That’s what I’m proud of most.”
But West regained a cool that’s been a staple through the three straight state titles.
Hobie Proctor made up for an earlier missed field goal and hit a 26-yarder after Borders’ pick-6 as West went back up 10-8.
Statesville got on the board when Keenan Moten blocked a punt in the end zone for a safety in the second quarter. West took a 7-2 lead into the break.
“We weren’t going to run against a wall,” Statesville coach Randall Gusler said. “We knew we had to go to the outside on these guys.”
Jackson traveled 100 yards on 22 carries while Edwards completed five passes for 60 yards.
In the conference opener for both squads, both started a backup quarterback. The Greyhounds, already playing without stud Carlis Parker, lost Josh Gaither late in the third quarter to an apparent ankle injury.
“It was tough,” Gusler said. “That’s a tough situation when you’re down to that, but it’s part of football.”
Five plays after Gaither’s injury, Mumford found Thompson over the middle for a 15-yard score with 10:45 left.
After both teams traded punts, West took over at the Statesville 37 after a solid return.
Miller and Jackson made up the next six plays with Miller punching it in from 2 yards out to give West the lead permanently at 16-15. The two-point try was unsuccessful.
West sacked Mumford on third and fourth down on the ensuing drive to get the ball back at the Statesville 18. Miller got his third TD of the game three plays later and the Greyhounds went four-and-out in the final minute without getting past their own 30.
“Our defense stepped up and played real hard,” Miller said. “This was a big win because we needed to start off good in the conference.”
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