Prep Football: West Rowan 21, Mooresville 14

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 17, 2012

By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA — The football season didn’t start out the way West Rowan coaches had envisioned.
After 11 seconds on Friday, West trailed. Mooresville’s Lathan Canady accepted a short opening kickoff and breezed 85 yards for a touchdown.
“We didn’t lay a hand on him — didn’t even lay a finger on him,” said West coach Scott Young, who was piloting the Falcons for the 189th time and thought he’d seen everything. “We just ran right by him. It was like two ships passing in the night.”
Maybe. But the sailing got smoother for West in a 21-14 victory over the visiting Blue Devils. After that opening TD, Mooresville didn’t score again until the final seconds, and West avenged the 2011 loss that ended a storied 46-game winning streak.
“That touchdown stunned us,” West defensive back Najee Tucker. “But it’s not like we didn’t already know they were a good team. We just knew we had to fight back. We didn’t want to lose to them again.”
West’s defensive unit produced five sacks and created five turnovers, including two fumble recoveries by Kiero Cuthbertson, who enjoyed a Hall of Fame night.
West held Mooresville to 177 yards, with most of the Blue Devils’ positive plays coming at the end of the half and the end of the game.
“West was just so powerful upfront,” Mooresville coach Hal Capps. “We never stopped fighting, but we had a lot of youth in there. They got quite a welcome to varsity football.”
Offensively, West didn’t put up any huge stats, although Desmond Jackson was able to pound for 105 yards on 26 workhorse carries.
Making his debut as West’s quarterback, Tyler Stamp threw two interceptions and completed only three passes, but Young was satisfied with Stamp’s leadership, wheels and decision-making.
“Stamp would make a great play, and then he’d make a mistake,” Young said. “But we grade quarterbacks here based on the bottom line, not the stats. He’s 1-0.”
West’s response to Mooresville’s game-opening TD set the tone. That answer was a clock-chewing, grinding drive in which the Falcons pounded out five first downs behind a veteran offensive line. Jackson got the TD from the 1 on fourth-and-goal.
A fumble recovery by Cuthbertson set up West’s go-ahead TD early in the second quarter. Stamp bolted in from the 6 for a 12-7 lead.
The gamebreaking play was turned in by Tucker, who grabbed a Mooresville fumble and cruised 65 yards untouched to the house.
“I just ran to the ball like we’re supposed to do, and then I saw it pop out,” Tucker said. “I scooped it, and there was nothing but green grass.”
West’s defense took charge after that. Cuthbertson, Jamond Phillips, Matthew Choi and Teoz Mauney logged sacks, and Choi and Mauney met at the quarterback to share another one.
“They were physical,” Capps said. “We’ve got to get tougher and more physical.”
West added a field goal by Zack Russell in the third quarter, and linebacker Bubba McLaughlin sealed the game when his interception with 5:26 remaining halted the Blue Devils, who had battled their way to the West 12.
“From looking at film, I knew they liked to dump the ball to the tight end in the middle of the field,” McLaughlin said. “I read the quarterback’s eyes and made a play. But a lot of guys played well. Our defense was pretty amazing.”
West fumbled for its third turnover when it was in run-out-the-clock mode, and Mooresville QB Joe Robinson dashed to the end zone with 25 seconds left. He barely got to the pylon in front of diving linebacker Logan Stoodley, who was all over the place.
“We had some pregame nerves, but then we settled down and just played the way we can play after that kickoff,” Stoodley said. “We beat an excellent team that fought us right down to the end.”
Young agreed.
“We didn’t play very well tonight,” he said. “But we did play really hard.”