Friday Night Hero: West Rowan's Maurice Warren
By Ronnie Gallagher
MOUNT ULLA — There’s a good reason Greg Dixon and Trey Shepherd are always standing out for the West Rowan defense.
The Falcon defensive line is one of the most feared around and you’ll get no argument from Mount Pleasant after its 31-12 first-round playoff loss on Friday.
Not only did the Tigers rush for just 82 yards, quarterback Alan McDonald was sacked nine — count ’em nine — times.
Two of those takedowns were by Warren, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound defensive end.
“Maurice has really stepped up the last three to four games,” defensive coordinator David Hunt said, adding how pleased he is with Warren’s containment.
Warren’s job is to keep the quarterback from getting outside. Hunt said Warren is the rush end but is also the stud tackle. He is both sides of the line and is playing as well as anyone heading into a second-round matchup with Statesville.
“Shepherd and Dixon make a lot of big plays,” explained defensive line coach Stevie Williams, “but if you study the film, Maurice is, a lot of the times, forcing the quarterback to them.”
It’s all part of a three-headed monster that has become the strength of the 9-2 Falcons, who are on a seven-game winning streak. The last loss was to S.C. power South Pointe. That’s when Warren stepped up.
“Since the South Pointe game, Maurice has been playing great and at a high level,” Williams said. “It clicks in. He’s deciding, as seniors do, it’s his team and he wants to go out with a bang.”
Warren was banging heads all night against Mount Pleasant. He helped set the tone from the outset. The Tigers tried three unsuccessful passes on their first series.
“We knew they would try to spread us out early,” Warren said. “When they moved around in the pocket, we did our assignments and got to them.”
“Our defensive front is known,” said Williams. “People try to eliminate us with quick passes to the outside. Teams want to wear us out but it’s not working.”
With all the help he gives Dixon and Shepherd, it was nice to see Warren get in on the sack parade.
“We made (McDonald) move around and I just got to him before anybody else could,” Warren said.
With a smile, he added, “It’s like a game sometimes. Who’s going to get to him first? We play great together. It’s just good chemistry all around.”
As a freshman, Warren was a defensive end backup to legend Chris Smith, now at Arkansas.
“He just played hard all the time,” Warren recalled. “I’m trying to do it as well, if not better.”
Williams said Warren’s best season came as a sophomore when he recorded 10 sacks. He only had three last year but is in double digit sacks as a senior.
Williams urges his guys to play like the 2007 New York Giants, led by Michael Strahan.
“When the ball’s snapped, go get ’em,” Williams said. “Coach (Ralph) Ellis and me stay on them. We probably give them less compliments than some people think they deserve.”
Coaches were handing out compliments this week to Warren. They are hoping they get a similar performance from Warren at home on Friday against Statesville. He says his guys will be ready.
“We’re going to go out and play hard and try to out-physical them,” Warren said. “We’ll try to force them into some bad throws and get some sacks.”
If that happens, it means Dixon and Shepherd will probably have their names called a lot. Don’t be surprised to see them thanking Maurice Warren for setting them up.