Friday Night Heroes: West Rowan's Hunter Mashburn and Mike Norman
By Ronnie Gallagher
MOUNT ULLA — Dinkin Miller takes the football and churns through a gaping hole. About 30 yards later, he is being congratulated by teammates and cheered by fans.
Hunter Mashburn and Mike Norman simply chug back to the huddle for the next play. Unnoticed.
That’s OK with each of them because that’s the life of an offensive lineman. Create the hole. Let someone else get the credit.
“If he does good,” Norman mused of Miller, “I do good. I feel like I accomplished something.”
West Rowan has had one constant since Scott Young took over in 1998: talented backs running behind a stout line. The Falcons have produced a 1,000-yard rusher for 13 straight seasons.
Credit Miller, who goes into Friday night’s game at West Iredell with 1,429 yards, for always thanking the linemen. He knows where his bread is buttered. And who better to run behind than the bearded, 6-0, 230-pound Mashburn, the starting center, or Norman, who commands the right side of the line with his 6-2, 280-pound frame?
Of Mashburn, Young chuckled, “Mr. Personality, as he’s known. He’s a great kid.”
Young jokes about Mashburn’s demeanor, saying, “He’s a quiet leader for us.”
The always smiling Norman turns mean on the football field. Young gave him the ultimate compliment.
“He’s one of the most athletic linemen we’ve had play here,” Young said.
Most of Miller’s 151 yards in a 44-14 win against Carson last Friday came from following “Stormin’ Norman.”
“We had a lot of success on the counter to the right,” Young said. “Many times, (Norman’s) out there running almost as fast as Dinkin to get to a secondary guy.”
Mashburn also has his favorite snaps.
“The gap is a good play,” he said. “It always works.”
And when West isn’t playing the “Monster Mash” while running behind its center, there is a quarterback named Zay Laster, who may break out of the pocket at any time.
“We just keep our blocks,” Mashburn explained. “It’s nice to have a mobile quarterback.”
“Most of the time, I’ll be sticking my block,” Norman said. “If I see him running, I’ll run after him and block.”
Everything seems to be working for West right now as it goes for its eighth straight conference championship. The current Falcons have won six in a row. But as senior leaders, Mashburn and Norman hope the best is yet to come.
“We’re not playing to our full ability,” Mashburn said. “If we do, we should be pretty good in the playoffs.”
“We’ve still got a little to work on,” Norman shrugged. “Nobody’s perfect.”
But West is always close to perfect when it comes to teaching the running backs and linemen to work together.
“We’re on quite a run 1,000-yard rushers,” Young smiled.
Mashburn and Norman know it, too.
“They pretty much tell us to keep the tradition rolling and don’t let it end,” Mashburn said.
It won’t as long as Young and offensive line coach Joe Nixon keep finding linemen like Mashburn and Norman to lead the charge.
“We always have a great running back,” Norman said.
With a grin he added, “And a great offensive line!”