MOUNT ULLA — “Our numbers are back up where we want them,” says a satisfied Scott Young, as his West Rowan Falcons sit quietly in the gym bleachers while a visitor explains a team fundraiser.
“Ninety-two guys for the first day of practice, “ the football coach says, just as an out-of-breath Falcon darts through the doorway. “Hey,and now you can make that 93.”
Young is in a positive mood, as is everyone in Mount Ulla. West will be very good, maybe scary good, and everyone senses that Thursday may be the first baby-step on a journey that won’t end before late November.
“We’ve had a fantastic summer,” Young says. “We took on 13 or 14 teams in 7-on-7s. We lost two. We tied one. One of the losses was to Spartanburg Dorman, one of the best teams in the country. Our back seven on defense — every single one of those kids has been at least a part-time starter for us and some of ’em have started for two years.”
This is basically a conditioning day, just as today will be.
Offensive players exit the gym in the orderly fashion of soldiers, make their way to the adjacent weight room and start flinging heavy iron around. Muscular, swift running back Daisean Reddick, who should be a lock for 1,500 yards, offers a quiet hello and a firm handshake.
Talented defensive back Najee Tucker, committed to the Charlotte 49ers, nods confidently as he strides by, a silent gesture that means there are postgame interviews — and probably picks — in his future.
“We’ve got some good-looking kids, don’t we?” asks beaming assistant James Collins, who already knows the answer to his question.
As weights clang and bang, the defensive Falcons file into the film room, tumble onto benches, stare at the screen and listen intently — like they’re preparing for a playoff game. Coordinator Lee Linville reminds them of terminology.
“This is a fold block,” Linville says. Falcons nod knowingly.
Most of these guys have been here before. This is an experienced group — reinforced by a freshman class that is out of this world.
“Skill-wise and depth-wise, this may be the best bunch of ninth-graders we’ve ever had,” Young said. “The class with K.P. (Parks) was good, but Chris Smith didn’t play football his freshman year and Jon Crucitti wasn’t with us then.”
Young (158-43) is starting his 16th season at West.
West has won at least 10 games nine straight years, and the Falcons have won 63 straight home games against North Carolina opponents.
B.Y. — Before Young — West’s longest streak of winning seasons was two. Now the Falcons have been winners 14 straight autumns.
“Sure, we talk to our kids about the tradition here,” Young said. “Guys before them set a standard. And when you set a standard, you’ve got to uphold it.”
They’ll try to uphold it with a lineup set just about everywhere except quarterback, where six guys are working.
They’ll also try to uphold in a new league. Back in the South Piedmont for the first football season since 2000, West renews rivalries with Concord, Northwest Cabarrus and Central Cabarrus.
“This league is tougher,” Young said. “In the NPC, there were weeks we already knew what the result was going to be — unless we had a bus wreck. For sanity’s sake, you’d like to have a few easy Fridays, but there won’t be many this time. But that’s OK. Our schedule will prepare us well for the playoffs.”