Prep Football Playoffs: West Rowan 31, Mount Pleasant 12
By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA — West Rowan defensive lineman Trey Shepherd silently embraced Mount Pleasant center Ryan Johns when it was all over.
Two warriors who may never encounter one another again acknowledged a potential blowout that turned into a physical struggle.
“That was all mutual respect,” Shepherd explained. “That No. 56 (Johns) is a great player. He played hard. His team played hard.”
No. 1 seed West beat the eighth-seeded Tigers 31-12, shell-shocking them early with power and speed, but basically treading water once the underdog Tigers (5-7) caught their second wind.
“I’m glad we jumped on them early,” West defensive lineman Maurice Warren said. “We made lots of mistakes tonight, and they just kept playing.”
West got a career-best 232 rushing yards from Dinkin Miller, who boosted his career TD total to 40, and advanced to a second-round matchup against NPC rival Statesville.
West sacked Mount Pleasant’s junior quarterback Alan McDonald eight times in the first half, as Shepherd, Warren and Greg Dixon — especially Dixon — threatened to break every world record.
Mount’s game-opening possession was three hurried incompletions by McDonald, followed by a punt, and the Falcons needed just five plays to coast 52 yards for a 6-0 lead.
Miller got the TD from the 1. The PAT failed, as did West’s next three.
“They just smacked us right in the mouth in that first quarter,” Mount coach Michael Johns said. “West has such great team speed, and that was the big factor. We’ve played good teams, people like Kannapolis, but it still takes a while to adjust to the kind of speed West has.”
Mount managed one first down on it second possession, but it had to punt again. Then the Falcons got a quick score when Miller broke through tacklers and churned 43 yards to the end zone for a 12-0 lead.
Just seconds after Miller’s jaunt, West linebacker Logan Stoodley sprinted 34 yards to the house when he picked off a McDonald pass. That made it 18-0, still with half the first quarter left to play, and no one would’ve blamed Mount Pleasant fans for finding their cars.
The Tigers at least ran some clock on their next possession, kept a drive alive with Andy Hunt’s surprise dash on a faked punt and reached the West 30 before stalling.
On fourth-and-8 at the 30, McDonald looked to throw, but he was buried under 750 pounds of converging Falcons. Dixon, Warren and Kiero Cuthbertson got up off that pile. Amazingly, so did McDonald.
“We have smart kids and we had a good gameplan,” McDonald said. “We wanted to keep the ball and wear their defense down, but it was just very hard to block them.”
It got worse for the Tigers before it got better.
West QB Zay Laster hit Jarvis Morgan in stride for a 71-yard TD down the West sideline to make it 24-0 — still in the first quarter.
“Two penalties had set us back,” Morgan said. “So we went to the line of scrimmage saying that it was time to make a play. We made one. Zay threw a great ball.”
Even West fans were starting to feel sorry for the Tigers at that point, but the second quarter was scoreless.
Then at halftime, the Tigers figured out McDonald had room to run up the middle with West devoting all its energy to the pass rush. In the second half, McDonald had scoots of 25, 18 and 14 yards.
Mount scored two second-half TDs with McDonald running for one and throwing a scoring pass to Hunt.
West scored just once in the second half, relying almost exclusively on Miller’s legs on a scoring drive that made it 31-6 with 8:36 remaining. That put the game on ice.
“We probably could have done that more if we’d wanted to be conservative,” West coach Scott Young said. “But we’re going to have to throw the ball better if we’re going to win games past tonight.”
Coach Johns was pretty excited about how his team played after West threatened an immediate knockout.
“We haven’t quit all year and I couldn’t be prouder of the way we played those last three quarters,” he said. “West has a great team. They didn’t win those three championships by accident, but we competed.”
Morgan was disappointed that West’s dominance ended after a quarter. So was Young.
“Credit Mount for not being fazed by our fast start,” he said. “But you also have to blame us. We let up and we didn’t execute well at all.”
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