Prep Football: West Rowan 52, South Rowan 12
By Mike London
LANDIS — It was a fine night for Hannah Houston, a cross country standout who was crowned homecoming queen at halftime, but for her South Rowan classmates — not so much.
West Rowan registered almost as many sacks — nine — as South had members of its homecoming court and throttled the Raiders 52-12. Jarius Lewis, Trey Shepherd and Matthew Choi crashed in for two sacks apiece.
“Mission accomplished,” West coach Scott Young said. “Although this was not pretty at all. It was slow going for a long time there.”
While it wasn’t a vintage performance by the injury-depleted Falcons (4-2, 2-0 NPC), they rode 255 rushing yards and three touchdowns by tailback Dinkin Miller to their 39th consecutive victory in intracounty games and their 28th straight triumph in the league.
“We’ve got a lot of guys out at key spots right now and a lot more that are playing hurt,” said quarterback Zay Laster, who is limping with an ankle sprain. “But Dinkin came up big. Dinkin is the man hands down.”
On a night on which South honored its 1980s dynasty, the Raiders (0-6, 0-2) stormed out of the blocks and stunned West with an 80-yard scoring drive to begin the game. For eight minutes or so, it was like old times.
“We had a great pregame pep talk,” SR quarterback Nathan Lambert explained. “We had a whole lot of intensity at the start.”
A key play was Lambert’s 21-yard pass to Jordan Kennerly on a faked punt when South appeared stopped at the West 45. Eric Tyler scooted 32 yards on a textbook third-and-18 draw for the TD.
“Just running scared,” said Tyler with a small smile. “Look, it was West Rowan and it was homecoming and we had absolutely nothing to lose. We did come out with energy. It’s just disappointing we couldn’t keep it up.”
Not since 2005 had South taken a lead against West.
Shorthanded as they were — o-lineman Brandon Hansen, DB C.J. Ellis, d-lineman Troy Culbertson and backup tailback Desmond Jackson were among the key guys who didn’t play at all — the Falcons understood the importance of striking back immediately.
“As soon as South scored, you could see they were fired up,” Miller said. “We were thinking we had to answer and we had to answer fast.”
West did. It didn’t take much more than two minutes. Miller rolled for 19 yards, then 15, then 14 more. With the Raiders thinking run, Laster rifled a pass that Jarvis Morgan snagged with a leap in the end zone for a 6-6 tie.
“We came out with all our guns blazing and we jumped on ’em,” South coach Jason Rollins said. “In the back of my mind, I was thinking this was the night we’d find that fire and pick up the defense.”
Didn’t happen. South fumbled, Najee Tucker recovered for West, and Miller punched in a quick touchdown.
South fumbled again, West lineman Greg Dixon scooped it and rumbled to the South 2. Then Laster skirted left end on third-and-goal for the TD that provided a 19-6 cushion.
When West’s “D’ pinned South deep and the Raiders managed only a 13-yard punt out to the SR 34, Miller made another quick dash to the end zone, and it was 25-6.
South’s last legitimate shot to make it interesting came when it launched a drive from its own 18 late in the half, and with the aid of a roughing-the-kicker penalty surged to first-and-goal at the West 5.
South had 20 snaps in that impressive drive — but wound up with zero points. Linebackers Logan Stoodley and Terrence Polk sacked Lambert on first down. Lewis nailed him on fourth.
West then applied the knockout blow when Miller broke several tackles on a fourth-and-7 play and rambled 41 yards for his third TD. When he reached the end zone, there were just seven seconds left in the half. West led 32-6, and it was over.
Lambert threw a fourth-quarter TD pass to Dominique Garlin, but between South’s first and last points, West put up 52 unanswered.
Trey Cuthbertson had a punt return TD in the second half, Morgan went 40 yards to score on a “Wildcat” snap, and Mack Flanagan had a short burst for another West TD.
“South punched us early and woke us up,” Young said. “We answered pretty well.”