2012 Football: West Rowan preview
By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA — You’re on a serious roll when 13-3 and losing in the 3A state championship game is considered mildly disappointing.
Coach Scott Young’s West Rowan dynasty stands at 60-4 the last four seasons, at 82-8 for the last six, and 101-12 in the last eight.
Let that sink in for a second — 12 losses in eight years. Not to mention eight league championships.
There are many storylines locally, with dynamic new coaches at North Rowan and East Rowan and a chance for big seasons at Carson and Salisbury. But whether or not West can remain one of the best in the state still is the most compelling story of all.
Ten of West’s 11 all-county players are gone as well as the coordinators on both sides of the ball, but if Young is worried, he disguises it well.
“We’ll be fine,” he says. “Just fine.”
Not everyone agrees, but there was no shortage of doubters last preseason. And if you recall, West was still playing in December.
Everyone knows West has won 32 straight in the NPC and 41 straight in the county, but here’s a new number to ponder. While West has played 64 games in the past four seasons, South Rowan and East Rowan have played 45.
“Playing that many games, was a huge plus for us,” Young said. “That’s five extra weeks of practice a year and five extra weeks the jayvee callups get to practice with the varsity. Those extra practices are one reason programs that are good tend to stay good.”
So will West stay good?
Maybe. The defense should be fine. On paper, the linebackers and defensive backs are actually better.
The offense? That’s where the jury is out. Stay tuned.
For West to stay on top, it needs a breakout by an offensive guy — whether it’s Tyler Stamp or Desmond Jackson or someone out of the blue.
West’s offense in 2011 was mostly tailback Dinkin Miller, with Zay Laster passing deep to Jarvis Morgan often enough to keep defenses honest. But all three playmakers graduated. For the first time since the 1990s, West has no sure-thing, gimme-the-dang-ball guy.
The 6-foot-2 Stamp, who had 15 catches as a starting receiver in 2011, takes over at quarterback as a senior.
“He’s a good athlete with a good arm, and he gets better every day,” Young said. “The only negative is he just doesn’t have a lot of experience playing quarterback.”
West has a pair of talented, experienced tailbacks in Jackson and Daisean Reddick.
Playing in six games in 2011, Jackson rushed for 356 yards and five TDs. He figured to be the feature back, but a knee injury in a 7-on-7 scrimmage is a concern.
“He’s gonna play with a brace and postpone surgery until after the season,” Young said.
Reddick pitched in with 249 yards in 2011. There’s also Marquise Drummer, who was elusive in blowouts against South Rowan and East Rowan.
The fullback is a key blocker when West employs its power game. Moving over from defense, Cody Eggers is the starter there, with Cedric Wilson also competing for time.
With Stamp operating at quarterback, West has to identify some receivers. Young believes Brandon Ijames will have a step-up year, and Caleb Cranfield is a likely starter.
Transfers Chris Patterson and Jywan Summers will help.
Patterson caught 10 passes for East Rowan last season as a sophomore.
“He has breakaway speed,” Young said.
Also in the wideout mix are Jamey Spurlin, Ben Parker, Darius Gabriel and Dontay Houpe.
The senior tight ends are Jack Gallagher, who played some as the backup in 2011, and Travis Reddick, who did not play as a junior.
“The double-tight end set has been good to us,” Young said. “Jack has experience, and we’re counting on Travis to be that second guy.”
The strength of the offense is the veteran line. Left guard Brandon Hansen, right guard Chris Hassard, left tackle Jonathan Ruiz and right tackle Rashad Sherrill all have started key games and all check in at a minimum of 240.
Ruiz could move to center, with sophomore Jacob Radtke taking over at left tackle. The other potential scenario is senior Trey Brawley at center and Ruiz staying at guard.
Behind those six are Christian Talbert and Andrew Jiles,
“We really like the ones we’ve got,” Young said. “But we’re not as deep there as we have been.”
On the defensive line, West may not have a a knockout individual. There’s no Chris Smith, Eli Goodson or Greg Dixon — but collectively it can be a solid group.
Returning starter Kiero Rowan could be the leader. Matthew Choi made two tackles in the state title game. Teoz Mauney and Derrick Fortson have been in the fire.
Young believes soph Darius Williamson can be an impact player. Other new faces are Jalen Norman, Malik Thompson and Jamond Phillips.
The starting linebackers could be outstanding. All have size and are sure tacklers.
Logan Stoodley, Defensive MVP of the 2010 state championship game as a sophomore, is coming off a three-pick, 180-tackle junior season and is a player of the year candidate.
Bubba McLaughlin, a transfer from South, is powerfully built at 230 and seasoned. Nick Collins is a rugged junior.
“Nick’s 185 and he’s the small one,” Young said. “That’s a good group, but we’re real thin there.”
Collins also is working some as the drop end.
The secondary will be the most improved area for new coordinator Lee Linville.
“I yelled at that DB bunch a lot last year because they were green and we were just so darn good in the secondary in 2010 when we had all four sign with colleges,” Young said. “But the DBs can be a strength for us this time.”
Zeke Blackwood, who punted last season, picked off four passes. Strong safety Harvey Landy also contributed four picks. Corners Najee Tucker (two picks) and Demetrius Davidson (one) started games.
Junior Tyler Kennedy got varsity experience last season and could start at free safety.
Depth will come from Scooter Gabriel, Broderick Avery, Jacob Steele, Anthony Pharr and Kadarrius Pressley.
Either Blackwood or Harrison Baucom, the backup QB, will punt. Zack Russell or veteran Bertin Suarez will handle kickoffs, PATs and field goals.
“Special teams are important to us,” Young said. “We take pride in that phase. We’ve won games with it.”
West Rowan will find out very quickly where it stands. It opens with Mooresville and Davie, two loaded 4As, before it tries to extend its long county streak against a talented Salisbury team.
“Mooresville has 160 players and we’ve got 90,” Young said. “But if we can find a way to win the first one, we’ll have a chance to win all of them.”