3A West Final: West Rowan 33, Burns 7: Falcons in fourth straight state title game

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 25, 2011

By David Shaw
MOUNT ULLA — Book a room in Chapel Hill for West Rowan’s football team.
The Falcons are headed back to the 3A state championship game for a fourth straight year following Friday’s easier-than-expected 33-7 victory at Burns.
“Don’t ever count us out,” left tackle Mike Norman said after West (13-2) pulled a minor upset and captured the Western state title. “That’s the message tonight. A lot of people said we were going to lose, that this was going to be it. Well, we’re going to Chapel Hill. That’s the statement we just made.”
They made it loud-and-clear. West huffed and puffed and blew the house down, ending Burns’ season in the fourth round.
“They’re like we were a few years ago,” said WR coach Scott Young. “We had to learn to crawl before we could walk. That’s where Burns is. There are good things in their future.
Not last night. Right from the first play from scrimmage — a 70-yard touchdown run by Dinkin Miller than was nullified by a Falcons penalty — this was West Rowan’s night to shine.
“The first play surprised me,” Miller said. “But as soon as I broke it I sensed this was going to be a one-sided game. I felt it in my heart.”
Burns (13-2) felt it everywhere else. “They just whooped us up front on both sides of the ball,” said losing coach Matt Beam. “We weren’t able to run the ball. We didn’t even have the ball long enough to get anything going.”
West racked up 438 yards total offens while its defense forced five turnovers held all-Solar System running back Darius Ramsey to 39 yards rushing. Most damaging for WR was the speed work of Miller, who could have played the game in tights and a cape. His rough-house runs netted him a career-best 266 yards and three touchdowns.
“It was all on my offensive line,” the 5-foot-10 senior said after sending defenders tumbling like bowling pins. “The would hold their blocks for a little while, just enough for me to make some cuts and break free.”
An escaped convict in shackles could have run for big yardage behind West’s beefy offensive line. Credit Rashad Sherrill, Chris Hassard, Hunter Mashburn, Brandon Hansen and Norman — affectionately nicknamed Big Mike — for clearing the way.
“They really won the game for us,” Young offered. “And this was a really good defensive front they faced. Those guys on the line, they’re the heroes for us tonight.”
West got off to a loud start, scoring a pair of touchdowns 21 seconds apart in the first quarter. First quarterback Zay Laster capped a game-opening drive with a 1-yard TD scamper. Then following a fumble recovery by teammate Trey Shepherd, Laster spiraled a 28-yard scoring pass to wideout Jarvis Morgan.
“We made some mistakes,” said Shepherd. “Nobody plays a perfect game. But we played as a team. And when it was time, everybody did what they were supposed to do.”
Meanwhile, the Falcons stymied Ramsey, the Burns senior who had previously rushed for 1,889 yards and 31 touchdowns this season. West’s defenders hung out the “No Trespassing” sign, wrapping him up and squeezing hard.
“He was a great running back on film,” said 6-3 defensive end Maurice Warren. “But this wasn’t film. First we stopped the runner. Then we broke down the passing game and made the quarterback (Brandon Littlejohn) move around in the pocket. We made him uncomfortable.”
By the second quarter — when Miller scored on runs of 1 and 22 yards to boost West’s lead to 26-0 — it was no longer a football game. It was a death watch.
“Dinkin?” Norman said outside the boisterous Falcons locker room. “He’s a very, very hard runner. He never stops moving and he has phenomenal vision. When he scored those two (touchdowns) back-to-back, we sort of knew we had it.”
And with it they had secured exactly what they came for — a date next Saturday with unbeaten Havelock at Keenan Stadium.
“Back when we were 2-2,” Miller said, thinking back to September, “after the second loss, I told Jarvis and Mike that was the last time West Rowan was going to lose.”
Now September’s dream is a December reality.
NOTES: Terrence Polk, Shepherd and Troy Culbertson recovered fumbles for West. Teammates Trey Cuthbertson and Warren intercepted passes.