By Ronnie Gallagher
SPENCER — Joe Nixon was a very cautious football coach last season. It was his first head job and he didn’t want to sound too boisterous, didn’t want to brag too much on his unbelievable stable of athletes at North Rowan and he wanted to keep the spotlight off himself.
The spotlight stayed in Spencer and on Nixon, however, during an exciting 8-4 season. And with so many talented starters returning, many were talking of a deep run through the 1A playoffs in the fall, maybe even going to — dare we say it? — the 1A state championship game.
Then realignment threw the Cavaliers up to 2A for 2013.
So now, 2A football will get a dose of the Big Green Nation.
“I don’t think you can get caught up in classifications,” Nixon said. “We played some good football teams like Albemarle and West Montgomery.”
His point is made when realizing his first team defeated two 3A teams in East Rowan and Carson. In high school, good players are good players.
And he has a load of returners, nine on offense, five on defense.
The best part is, the Cavs and Nixon know each other as spring football practice winds down.
“Last year, we were trying to put in philosophies and schemes,” Nixon said, adding everyone’s more comfortable now.
College recruiters are salivating as they talk to the rising Cavalier seniors, especially linebacker Xavier Robinson, all 6-foot, 205 pounds of M-A-N.
“He’s getting looks from everybody,” Nixon said. “He has size and speed. We’ll probably get the ball in his hands.”
For the record, linebacker Robinson got to run the ball 11 times and averaged about six yards per carry. He scored three times.
Another coveted Cav is 6-2 defensive back Mike Robinson, who was all-Yadkin Valley Conference and all-county. The guy was everywhere making plays.
“Mike’s a long, athletic corner,” Nixon said.
North Carolina, N.C. State, Clemson, Coastal Carolina, UNC-Pembroke, you name a school, they seem interested in those two.
And that’s just two guys on defense. Kick-return specialist and defensive back Kasaun Coney and defensive lineman Cecil McCauley have received exposure.
“It goes from D-3 to D-1,” Nixon said. “The kids have put themselves in a position to get looks.”
But the offense. Oh my, the offense. If it’s clicking, there’s no telling what it could produce.
This is a group that tattooed 12 opponents for 384 points. And you start with two juniors, quarterback Alexis Archie and running back Jareke Chambers.
Gunslinger Archie had played only a year of jayvee before being thrust into the spotlight. He threw for 1,238 yards and 13 touchdowns and has a favorite target returning in receiver Sakil Harrison (18 catches for 374).
The biggest weapon will be when Archie gets the ball to Chambers. In the last game of his sophomore year, he ran for 272 yards, putting him over 1,000. He even had 212 yards receiving out of the backfield.
Names like Rabon, Cozart, Sifford, Taylor and Tomlinson are also back.
“All of our kids are doing what they need to do.” Nixon said.
From Clayton to Catawba to West Rowan to North Rowan, Nixon has won and this group can carry on that tradition.
The first time we’ll get to see North go against other teams will be 7-on-7 action this summer. North is headed to West Forsyth and Pinecrest before playing host to North Davidson.
As we wave goodbye to the Yadkin Valley Conference, all there is to say is good riddance to long trips.
Making a high school football team ride almost two hours to a football game, like North did to Chatham Central, is pretty ridiculous. Nixon’s Cavaliers would board the bus at 4 p.m. and not get home until almost midnight.
“The kids did a very good job with it,” Nixon praised. “We had people step up and feed us and we took charter buses.”
Overall, North was the YVC’s premier school the past four years, winning state titles in basketball, track and wrestling.
If North is to get a football championship, it will be in its former 2A league, the Central Carolina Conference.
If the Cavaliers make a playoff run and finish with a good record, Nixon knows they will earn it.
This schedule includes a few football behemoths, especially in the six nonconference games.
The first four will be against familiar Nixon foes. He saw East Rowan, Carson, Statesville and Davie County regularly as an assistant to Scott Young at West. There are two YVC-like road trips to Providence Grove and Forest Hills.
“We’re in a six-team league,” he pointed out. “Finding a nonconference game in the sixth week of the season is a tough thing to do.”
Then comes the league slate, which isn’t easy at all. Not with Lexington, Thomasville and Salisbury looming.
Ah, Salisbury. This is one of the county’s best rivalries. Although they still played nonconference games, it’s nice this encounter will count for something much more — perhaps a CCC title one day?
“Salisbury’s the last game of the year,” Nixon said. “It will be special for our kids.”
“Special” is what you call North Rowan’s players. They are committed to Nixon and the staff to win.
And while the spring recruiting hoopla is a fun thing to talk about in the barber shop, Nixon has only one thing in mind.
“I want them to enjoy their high school experience and the North Rowan football season,” he said.
Everyone else is planning on enjoying it, too, Joe.
Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or email@example.com.