Prep Football: The state championship notebook

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 1, 2011

By Ronnie Gallagher
Getting ready for a weekend of championships …
RALEIGH — Former Shelby coach Chris Norman retired after last year’s 2AA playoff loss to Salisbury.
Norman is now on the radio in Cleveland County at 88.3 FM. He was prepping for the Burns-West Rowan Western final last Friday and needed some stats from Scott Young’s Falcons.
Before the game, Norman wrote in an e-mail, “This is one of the best Burns teams I’ve seen in many years. I know what a great job Scott does at West so it has the makings of a great one.”
It was a great one — for West Rowan, which won in convincing fashion, 33-7.
Norman was like most of the fans in Ron Greene Stadium — impressed. When the game was over, another e-mail from the former coach:
“WOW, is all I can say. That is the best defensive front I’ve seen in many years. Congratulations to West. They totally dominated the game.”
It propelled the Falcons into their fourth straight state title game. West meets Havelock at 11 a.m. Saturday in North Carolina’s Kenan Stadium.

NO HOTEL: 11 a.m. on a Saturday morning is pretty early. Did Young think about staying at a hotel in Chapel Hill on Friday night?
No way.
“I’m not a fan of that,” Young said. “I’d rather the guys sleep six hours in their own bed Friday night. I’m smart enough to know what happens in these hotel rooms with a bunch of 16, 17-year-old boys.”
West players will report to school around 5:40 a.m. and eat breakfast there. Young hopes to get to Kenan at around 9 a.m. and hit the field at 10.

COLLEGE TOUR: In four years, West has played in three of the state’s top facilities.
In 2009, West beat West Craven at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem, home of Wake Forest and former Falcon Tristan Dorty, now a senior defender for the Deacons.
The last two seasons have been spent in N.C. State’s Carter-Finley Stadium, beating Eastern Randolph each time.
Finally, the Falcons get to play among the pine trees in Chapel Hill on Saturday.

UNIFORMS: The Western champ will be the home team and will wear dark jerseys.
“We’re going to do what our kids want to do,” Young said. “I think they want to wear navy, if you can believe that.”

GET UP: Here’s a new one. Havelock coach Jim Bob Bryant didn’t waste time after a Friday night football game. He brought his team in for practice on Saturday morning every week.
The sports medicine staff would come in to address any nicks or bruises. The team watched film, then jogged out to the field for a stretching period and walk-through.
And of course, there were always plenty of biscuits and hash browns awaiting the Rams.

THE MAGIC NUMBER: West’s Dinkin Miller is one of three 2,000-yard runners playing this week. Lincolnton’s Todd Gurley and Northern Guilford’s T.J. Logan have also reached 2,000.
Miller enters Saturday with 2,438.

4 TIMES: If Young and Tarboro’s Jeff Craddock seemed like the most relaxed coaches at Monday’s state championship press conference, there’s a reason.
Both have their teams in the title game for the fourth straight year.
Over the last four seasons, Young is 60-3 while Craddock is 57-5.
Craddock said while his assistants were going over the game plan on the ride to Raleigh, he played a crossword puzzle up in the front seat. His team has won the last two titles.
Tarboro faces Lincolnton at 3 p.m. at N.C. State Saturday.

NO SALISBURY? Lincolnton coach Scott Cloninger and his 14-1 Wolves had to knock off Central Carolina Carolina champion Thomasville to reach the finals.
He was kind of expecting to meet another CCC team — defending 2AA champion Salisbury, which lost in the third round to Thomasville.
Last year, Salisbury was 2AA and Lincolnton 2A. This year, they were both 2A.
“We made an agreement,” Cloninger said of himself and Salisbury coach Joe Pinyan. “I said, ‘Joe, you stay big and I’ll stay little.’ I’m going to tell him, ‘Coach, you didn’t keep up your end of the bargain.”
Cloninger shook his head thinking of having to face Pinyan’s wishbone.
“I’ll tell ya, we really didn’t want to play Salisbury,” he said.

MORE HORNETS: An ironic twist was WSTP’s Howard Platt’s halftime guest during the Burns game — Pinyan.
Some thought Pinyan would travel to watch Mooresville, where he was a long-time assistant. But he is obviously on the Falcon train.
His interview was right on. West led 26-7 at that time and Pinyan predicted Burns wouldn’t move it in the second half, either.
Burns went scoreless in the final two quarters.

WHAT HAPPENED? Another familiar face to CCC fans is West Stokes coach Jimmy Upchurch, who used to get beaten up by Salisbury. Now, the undefeated Wildcats are in another league and playing for a state title.
“When I saw Salisbury on film, they’re still doing the same stuff,” Upchurch said.
What has happened at West Stokes?
“We started getting a little better run of athletes — kids who are used to winning,” he said.

HARD(IN) TO BEAT: Talk about a family affair. Former A.L. Brown Wonders are having one.
Father Bruce won the private school state title at Providence Day last month. Son Blair has taken Porter Ridge to the 4A title game. And son Justin is also in a championship. He is an assistant at South Pointe, S.C., which plays at Clemson Saturday for a crown.
South Pointe was the last team to beat West Rowan, which has reeled off 11 straight wins since.

FOUR IN A ROW: There are three Falcons who are making their fourth appearance in a state title game: receiver Jarvis Morgan, tight end Louis Kraft and defender Troy Culbertson, who were all brought up as freshmen.

HAVELOCK FAN: One of the state finalists is in 1A: Jones County, which lost to Havelock 63-6.
“Lightning-fast speed,” was the way Jones coach John Davis described Bryant’s Rams.
Jones learned from the loss.
“Playing Jim Bob Bryant any time will help you get here,” Davis said.

STATEWIDE: Murphy won the West and will play Jones. It was almost a Murphy-to-Manteo thing. Manteo lost to Jones in the Eastern final.

NICKNAMES: There are two Vikings, two Trojans and two Chargers playing this weekend.
Some of the more unusual names are the Maroon Devils (Swain County), Fighting Scots (Scotland County) and the Nighthawks (Northern Guilford).

NOTES: State championship weekend begins tonight at UNC with a rematch of last year’s 3AA game between Northern Guilford and Crest. … Undefeated teams include Havelock (3A), West Stokes (2AA), Scotland County and Porter Ridge (4A) and Garner and Greensboro Page in 4AA. … Time Warner will be airing all eight championship games on various channels. … The most amazing title run is by 1A Swain County, which is in its 10th championship. The Maroon Devils are 7-2 in those championships, including a three-year run in 1988-90 when they were led by Heath Shuler. There are two Shulers on this team: starting running back Austin and freshman Jarrett.