Prep Football Playoffs: West Rowan 22, Concord 14: Falcons in fourth straight 3A West final
By Ryan Bisesi
MOUNT ULLA — In any sense of the word, the West Rowan defense has consistently been a bear to deal with.
But the Falcons’ bear package Friday night brought them from very good to elite status with a clutch stop of visiting Concord.
The Falcons halted their guest at their goal line twice in the final 20 seconds of the first half and got a big interception in the final minute to defeat Concord 22-14 and advance to the fourth round of the 3A playoffs yet again.
The significance wasn’t lost on West, who’s making its fourth-straight appearance in the 3A West final.
Most fans thought trouble when Concord moved the ball to the 1 with 35 seconds left. West defensive lineman Greg Dixon thought destiny.
“It’s a moment we live for,” Dixon said. “We always live to make big plays for our team.”
West got in the bear formation on the stand, which consists of an extra defensive lineman and “Falcon football” according to Dixon.
“I knew they were going to go for it,” Zeke Blackwood said. “They tried to confuse us with motion and we saw it.”
On offense, Jarvis Morgan and Dinkin Miller were making big plays again. Morgan reeled in a 56-yard touchdown pass to put West out in front for keeps and Miller had another triple-digit game with 159 yards rushing. Defensively, Dixon had three sacks and forced a fumble on the first drive that rattled stud quarterback B.J. Beecher. Blackwood’s third interception of the year with 1:33 to play sealed it.
West didn’t blast Concord to the tune of last year’s third-round 48-28 clash, but in the end, but this win was emblematic of a team that didn’t blow overwhelm teams like in years past, but got the job done.
“No style points,” West coach Scott Young said. “None needed at this time. ”
The Falcons will travel to Burns, a 28-14 winner against Franklin, next Friday for a trip to the state title.
After failing to complete a pass against Statesville, West quarterback Zay Laster made some nice throws that weren’t completed at the other end. On the fourth play of the second half, he connected with Morgan on a one-on-one down the sideline on a deep throw that put the Falcons up for keeps.
“That got us going,” Young said.
Miller had a dynamite first quarter with 97 yards. His first carry went for a touchdown that was called back for holding on the Falcons’ initial play from scrimmage. Redemption came on the next possession, however. A 46-yard run into the end zone started the scoring with 4:43 left in the first quarter.
“We knew (Miller) was a stud,” Concord coach Glen Padgett said. “They do a good job of possessing the clock and are very fundamentally sound.”
The Spiders answered with a 82-yard drive that ended with Beecher sneaking it in from a yard out. The extra point was blocked by Najee Tucker to keep the score tied at 6.
West punted on the ensuing possession and Concord’s Denzel Phillips put the Spiders in business with a 36-yard run to put it at the West 23. Beecher threw a 17-yard pass to Bravone Howard on fourth down to put the Spiders a yard away from the lead.
After a timeout, the 6-foot-6 Beecher was denied on three consecutive quarterback sneaks.
“We felt like we scored on the second one, but my hat’s off to West Rowan for stopping us,” Padgett said. “That was a big momentum swing.”
The clock ran out after the third attempt, giving the Falcons a jolt and the momentum it needed to win the game.
“You’ve got a 6-foot-6 quarterback and he gets two cracks at it inside the two-yard line?” Young said. “That’s awesome.”
After Morgan’s touchdown catch, his 14th of the season, the Falcons took over at the Concord 37 after a poor punt. Laster completed his final pass to Brandon Ijames on third down to put the ball in the red zone. Two six-yard runs by Miller later, West went up by two scores, aided by a Laster run on the two-point try.
The Falcons tried a squib kick and recovered it to keep the good times rolling. A three-and-out gave Concord a pulse and it capitalized. Beecher completed 7 of 9 passes on the next drive and found Alex Asbury for a 10-yard touchdown toss on third down.
Beecher tried to construct an Elway-like drive with 5:44 left from his own 7 and got the Spiders to the West 23 with 1:40 to play. Blackwood eyed his vision and stepped in front of one to put a bow on it.
“At first I had tripped,” Blackwood said. “So I had to make up for it and run. I just turned around, looked at the ball and it was there in my hands.”
Phillips ran for 123 yards to lead the Spiders on the ground. Beecher threw for 247 yards.
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