By Ronnie Gallagher
MOUNT ULLA — During West Rowan’s three-year reign as 3A football champion, Scott Young was named North Carolina Coach of the Year twice.
He didn’t get it this year since his team lost in the finals to Havelock, but in all seriousness, this is the year he should’ve won it. The job he did with the 2011 Falcons was arguably his best ever.
No one expected a 13-3 record with so many of his big-name stars gone.
The doubters didn’t expect West to win the conference. They didn’t expect a win over Concord. Or Burns in the Western final.
But Young’s burning desire carried over to a group of athletes who continued the tradition.
You won’t find any Scott Young quotes in this story. What more could he possibly say? But that’s OK. The rest of the county coaches were more than happy to talk about one of their respected friends.
“People said, ‘No, it’s not going to happen,’ ” said South Rowan coach Jason Rollins of another West march to Championship Saturday. “But you know Scott’s going to have them ready. He took them to the final game and hey, that’s impressive. Not many teams can walk around and say they’ve done what those guys have done.”
Here’s something that was expected around here: Young is the Salisbury Post 2011 Coach of the Year.
This is his ninth award since taking over the Falcons in 1998. When Brian Hinson was at East, he joked about being honored to share the Scott Young Award with Young.
It really has become that.
Five times, he has shared the award with the likes of South Rowan’s Rick Vanhoy and North’s Roger Secreast, East’s Hinson and Salisbury’s Joe Pinyan.
But this year, there was no other candidate. Period.
Not only did Young overcome losing his star players, he overcame something much more serious than an inexperienced team.
On Oct. 24, Young drove himself to the hospital with chest pains. He was having a heart attack.
Four days later, he was in the press box at West Iredell, guiding young Joe Nixon on offense and veteran David Hunt on defense as the Falcons wrapped up their eighth straight conference title.
Young’s quick return didn’t surprise Carson’s Mark Woody, who said, “That’s what he does.”
“He’s a tough nut,” added former East coach Chad Tedder. “People on the outside don’t know what we have to go through. You get home late and eat fast food. You don’t get to burn off those calories. Over time, that’s just the way it is.”
The downfall of Young and West was supposed to continue after the Falcons fell to an unheard-of 2-2. Rowan coaches knew better and weren’t surprised at all as West reeled off 11 straight victories.
“They never looked back after those two losses,” Rollins said.
Salisbury’s Pinyan said he knew deep inside West was going all the way to the title game after his defending 2AA champion Hornets fell to West.
“He put four defensive linemen out there and we weren’t budging them. They took them out and put four more in. We weren’t budging them, either. I expected West to be there.”
Young said during the season he knew his defensive line was his strength and it seldom let him down. His offense came through too, driving the last few minutes of a playoff game against Statesville to win 32-27 in the final seconds.
Former North coach Tasker Fleming was at that game.
“His clock management was great,” Fleming said, adding it was easy to tell Young had been in these clutch situations before.
A goal-line stand against Concord propelled the Falcons into the Western final against a Burns team that was heavily favored. Young seemed to have more fun as an underdog, a status his teams haven’t dealt with much over the past four years. The Falcons not only won, they crushed the Bulldogs 33-7, making a fourth straight title game.
The biggest compliment is that other coaches are following Young’s lead.
“He has the same system I tried to install here,” Tedder said. “We can go right into their huddle and understand every word. The kids believe in it.”
All of the other county coaches know who Young will credit for yet another award.
“He has a great coaching staff,” Rollins said. “I think Scott will say that, too.”
“They know what they’re doing,” Woody nodded.
“We know we’re going to get their coaches’ best,” Pinyan said.
Tedder remembers his first time going up against the Scott Young-coached Falcons.
“They looked like a small college team walking out there,” he said. “His kids were very respectful.”
And Tedder doesn’t see Young’s success ending anytime soon.
“He’s got the athletes to get back there next year.”
In other words, never doubt Scott Young.
By Ronnie Gallagher