Prep Football: 3A Championship: Havelock 38, West Rowan 6
By Ryan Bisesi
CHAPEL HILL — West Rowan donned a shade of blue it wasn’t used to wearing after state championship games.
It wasn’t the dark blue of their jerseys or the light blue that surrounded Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, but the disappointment that accompanied much of the south sideline.
It turned out the flash and pizazz of the Havelock offense was enough to nullify the Falcons’ championship experience. The Rams scored on their first two possessions and West never got into its flow in a 38-6 loss in the 3A state title game Saturday.
It was a humbling experience for West, rarely one to be overmatched. There wasn’t one aspect the Falcons could point to. They were beaten soundly in a game where they surrendered the most points since a 35-21 loss against Davie County in 2008.
It was uncharted territory for a team that had won 59 of 61 games.
“Nobody ever likes to admit they got manhandled,” West defensive lineman Trey Shepherd said. “But they’re the better team. They came out and beat us.”
Havelock, who ended up averaging 50 points a game during its 16-0 run, got 10 points in the final 42 seconds of the first half to make its comfortable lead insurmountable.
If there was a team worthy of ending’s West’s string of championship glory, it was the Rams.
“They were clearly the better team today,” West coach Scott Young said. “It was their day and they beat us soundly. There’s not any one or two things you can put your finger on.”
Havelock quarterback Garrett Crowe was the game’s MVP. Crowe threw for 151 yards and two touchdowns and was interception-free.
“We wanted to score quick, it’s what we’ve done all year,” Crowe said.
West started the game with an onside kick attempt that Havelock recovered. Seven plays later, Andy Keel rushed into the end zone on an end-around for 13 yards. West started its first possession at its own 44, but three rushes from Miller equaled fourth-and-3. The Falcons gambled again with a fake punt, but Daisean Reddick was stopped a yard short of a first down.
With great field position again, the Rams capitalized. Keel ran it 14 yards to the West 28 for a first down and Crowe double-pumped and found Pharoh Cooper all alone in the end zone for a 28-yard strike. Zach Lahaie’s extra point made it 14-0 Havelock just 6:11 into action.
“They came out fast and physical,” Shepherd said. “They outmanned us.”
The Falcons finally got a first down on their next drive, but stalled at their own 36, forcing a Arturo Vergara punt. Both teams went three-and-out on their next two possessions.
Cooper reeled in his second touchdown pass with 42 seconds left in the half on a perfectly placed 37-yard toss from Crowe. The Rams’ AJ Coplan recovered a fumble by West receiver Jarvis Morgan on the ensuing drive and brought it all the way down to the West 7.
Lahaie nailed a 22-yard field goal two plays later to make it 24-0 at halftime.
“We told the guys at halftime there are no 24-point plays,” Young said. “We’ve got to get that ball and score first.”
They achieved their halftime goal to an extent.
Miller finally broke one late in the third quarter on a 38-yard touchdown run for his 26th and final meeting with the end zone. Zay Laster hit Morgan for a 19-yard completion on the previous play. Miller’s run was the longest play from scrimmage for the Falcons.
“They hit hard, fast and physical,” Miller said of Havelock. “I didn’t expect them to score on our defense that quick and that much.”
Miller finished with 132 yards to put him at 2,570 for the year. Morgan caught six passes for 73 yards to become the third receiver in West history to eclipse 1,000 yards receiving.
Laster’s toss to Louis Kraft on the two-point conversion was wide and the score remained 24-6.
After West had finally seized some momentum, Havelock played keep-away and succeeded. The Rams kept it for the next 5:42 and churned out 59 yards over 10 plays. Crowe ended the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run on a keeper. That was the backbreaker, making it 31-6 with 11:49 left to play.
Crowe’s passing yards were his second-lowest of the season, but the Rams found other ways to utilize their offensive prowess. Bubble screen passes and draws nullified the Falcons’ advantage in size.
“We knew they were big up front,” Crowe said of West Rowan. “We had to find ways to get the ball out quick. Our guys up front did really well.”
Keel added another score on a 5-yard spurt with 4:46 left to end the scoring.
Shepherd was West’s defensive MVP with 81/2 tackles and three tackles for loss. Havelock linebacker Tyrone Bradley was the Rams’ defensive star, with a fumble recover and 61/2 tackles.
Derrell Scott, holder of Havelock’s season rushing record with 1,807 yards, ran for 71 yards with Keel totaling a team-high 81. Cooper, Havelock’s single-season receiving leader, was his team’s offensive MVP.
“They had to beat the three-time defending state champion for the belt,” Young said. “We lost the belt today, but it doesn’t mean we can’t get it back.”
NOTES:West lost two fumbles and had an interception…Havelock overcame 11 penalties for 107 yards…The Rams won the possession battle 27:21-20:39.