Prep Football: 3A championship preview: West Rowan vs. Havelock

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 2, 2011

By Ronnie Gallagher
CHAPEL HILL — You know this is West Rowan’s fourth straight appearance in the 3A state championship football game.
What you may not know is how close the Falcons were to playing Havelock in the last three.
The Rams are today’s 11 a.m. opponent in Kenan Stadium at the University of North Carolina. They finally made it after losing to Eastern Alamance the past two seasons in the Eastern final.
Last year was especially painful for Jim Bob Bryant’s club. It led going into the fourth quarter.
“Losing both years motivated us,” Bryant said.
So much so that Bryant made sure his players wouldn’t forget.
“We actually took a picture of the Eastern Alamance celebration at midfield and blew it up into a large poster,” he said. Our kids have to see it every day.”
At the bottom of the poster are the words, “Never again.”
“Our kids took that to heart that never again will we lose an Eastern final,” Bryant said.
Havelock hasn’t lost to anyone else, either, since last year. The Rams come in 15-0 and are averaging 59 points in the playoffs. Last week’s Eastern final was a joke. The Rams beat up Cleveland Clayton 64-7.
“They finally got over that hump,” West Rowan coach Scott Young said. “They’re fast, they’re athletic and they run very well. That’s what jumps out at you. They’re putting a pile of points on everybody.”
The Rams revolve around quarterback Garrett Crowe. The senior runs the spread offense to perfection.
Coming into today’s game, Crowe has passed for 3,153 yards on 207 of 309 passing. He is just 48 yards shy of his own school record for passing yards in a season. He has thrown 35 touchdown passes.
“He’s a great kid,” Bryant said. “He’s the smartest quarterback I’ve ever coached.”
Not only do the Rams use a spread formation, they are a no-huddle team.
“(Crowe) has three plays and checks to one of those plays at the line,” Bryant noted. “He sends our guys in motion and checks to correct blocking schemes. He does a lot.”
Crowe has made stars of receivers Pharoh Cooper and Zach Lahaire.
Cooper has 61 catches for 1,777 yards and 12 scores. Lahaire has 53 grabs for 847 yards and 15 touchdowns.
It will be up to West’s defensive line stars Greg Dixon, Maurice Warren and Trey Shepherd, among others, to get penetration. This group has had as many as nine sacks in one game.
But just when you focus all of your attention on Crowe and the passing game, Havelock will hurt you with the run. Derell Scott, a 5-foot-10, 165-pound back, averages 10 yards per carry and has 1,785 yards rushing coming in. He has scored 25 times.
Fellow back Taylor Woods, a 5-9, 175-pound sophomore has run for 852 yards and averages 8.4 per carry. He has scored 15 touchdowns.
“We don’t put a lot of faith in stats,” Young said. “We know they deserve to be here. We know they’re very skilled.”
Most of the message boards are doubting West Rowan (13-2) can pull off a fourth title, some even saying Havelock will easily put 40 points on the Falcons. Of course, Young loves that. Go ahead and make his team the underdog. It wasn’t favored last week at Burns and dominated, winning 33-7.
Bryant is not in that group of message-board “experts.”
“West Rowan is supposed to win this game,” he insisted. “They’ve been here the last three years and are a very good football team.”
Havelock will surely look at that poster of Eastern Alamance’s celebration one more time before heading to Chapel Hill.
“We’ll have to play one of our best football games to have a chance to compete,” Bryant said.

NOTES: Tickets at the gate are $10. … Parking is $10. … This is the second time Bryant has faced a Rowan County school. Havelock beat Brian Hinson’s East Rowan Mustangs in the second round of the playoffs in 2009.