Friday Night Hero: North Rowan's Cecil McCauley
By Ronnie Gallagher
SPENCER — In the preseason, North Rowan’s Cecil McCauley admitted being a defensive lineman may not be his cup of tea.
“I was thinking, ‘I need to move to a different position, probably (offensive) line,” he said.
Carson quarterback Austin McNeill wishes McCauley had made the change after a fourth-down play in North Rowan’s 19-14 victory over the Cougars on Friday night.
North was nursing a 19-7 lead when Carson decided to go for it on a fourth-and-16.
“I don’t remember most of the plays on Friday,” McCauley said, grinning from ear-to-ear — but adding he did remember that one.
Defensive line coach Stevie Williams, like head coach Joe Nixon, a former West Rowan assistant, had watched enough film to know McNeill liked to bootleg.
“Coach said, ‘Watch the boot, it’s coming’ ” McCauley said. “Sure enough, on fourth down, it came.”
McCauley, a junior defensive end, described the play this way:
“I hit the tackle and kept my feet moving and ended up in the backfield. (McNeill) looked up and I was there. I almost overran it. I just grabbed him and took him down.”
It was McCauley’s second sack of the series.
After the big defensive play, the offense held the ball for seven minutes. Carson scored late but there was only 1:22 left.
“It was big for the defense,” Williams said of the opening win. “We’ve been preaching technique and now, they’re seeing it works. They’re like, ‘I can make some plays.’ ”
McCauley was glad it was the defensive line that made them.
“All Coach talked about was the D-line was the only (part) not putting in much effort,” he said. “So I had to step it up to show respect to the D-line.”
While McCauley may have wanted to switch positions before the season, Williams had other ideas. He had coached some of the best linemen around at West and saw their beginnings.
“I kinda noticed he fit the mold of Chris Smith, (Emmanuel) Gbunblee and Eli (Goodson),” Williams said.
Nixon was certainly impressed with McCauley.
“He’s playing with a good motor and he’s being pretty physical,” Nixon said of the 6-foot, 225-pound McCauley. “He’s starting to get it figured out and that’s what we need from the defensive line. He played hard on every down.”
There’s a lot of excitement right now involving the Cavalier football program. McCauley points straight at Nixon, who won the first game of his head-coaching career on Friday.
“He brought the enthusiasm and stepped it way up,” McCauley said. “Everybody wanted to become part of the team.”
The fans of Spencer enjoyed their 1A team beating a 3A foe, as did the players. But by Tuesday, it was back to business.
“It’s exciting,” McCauley nodded. “But we have to bring that ‘after-win effect’ to practice every day from now on.”
And McCauley will bring it from the defensive side, not from the offensive line.
“Now, I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m believing in the system,’ ” he smiled. “I showed on Friday night I could do it.”