Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 11, 2013
It was a draining day for North Rowan coach Joe Nixon, who directed the Cavaliers in early-morning football scrimmages at Mooresville against 3A squads South Rowan and Hickory Ridge.
He finally found a chair and sat down for a family dinner after 8 p.m.
A marathon day, but a productive one.
“You don’t gameplan for scrimmages, and you don’t try to win or lose scrimmages,” Nixon said. “You just go out there, run your base offense and base defense, and find out how hard your kids will compete. Our kids played really hard today and they had fun doing it. Sure, we’ve got plenty of corrections to make, but I thought our effort level today was tremendous,”
The level of excitement is elevated at North for several reasons. North raised the bar by winning eight games in 2012, Nixon’s first season at the helm.
Very young last season, North now returns experienced talent, including a talented quarterback (Alexis Archie), a 1,000-yard running back (Jereke Chambers) and probably as much line beef as it’s mustered since the late 1990s.
North is returning full throttle to the 2A ranks and the Central Carolina Conference, its natural home, after four years in exile in the 1A Yadkin Valley Conference. The schedule also is energizing for the fan base, with the Cavaliers taking on respected non-conference foes such as Statesville and Davie County.
“I know the coaches at Statesville and Davie well, and while those will be tough games against very good teams, games like that give our guys a chance to play in big-time games in front of big-time crowds,” Nixon said. “They’ve worked hard. They deserve that.”
Neutral observers on Saturday were awed by North’s size and left convinced the Cavaliers are a legit top-10 2A team.
South Rowan coach Jason Rollins, whose team battled North and Mooresville on Saturday, wouldn’t disagree.
“Oh, Lord, North is extremely good,” Rollins said with a sigh and a head-shake. “Yeah, I think they’ll be OK.”
Coming off 2-9, 1-9, 2-8 seasons and entering a restructured South Piedmont Conference that includes perennial powers West Rowan and Concord, no one is picking South for great things, but Rollins exited Saturday’s scrimmage sounding upbeat.
“There were ups and downs, but our kids held our ground and they did well considering the quality of the two teams we went up against,” Rollins said. “It’s like I told our guys, no one won any trophies today — this was just another practice. The only difference was that we were getting to pound on another set of jerseys instead of each other.”
Rollins said his running game, with Dominique Bost and Dez Blackwell carrying the mail, was a bright spot, but the passing game has further to go.
“We’ve still got four or five kids that we’re still trying to figure out what their best position is,” Rollins said. “It’s a puzzle, but we found out where a few more of the pieces fit today.”
While Nixon said North came out of the scrimmage healthy, South linebacker Hunter Meeks, one of the Raiders’ top returners, twisted an ankle.
East Rowan also had a busy Saturday.
Coach Danny Misenheimer, whose first successful season in Granite Quarry, mirrored that of Nixon’s in Spencer, took his team to a five-team jamboree at North Stanly, The Mustangs got on the field against Anson, Mount Pleasant and East Montgomery as well as the host school.
“We got to run a whole lot of plays, and for a first scrimmage, I was extremely proud of our guys,” Misenheimer said. “We did well. It’s not like we were going to win the state championship today, but we were able to find some guys who can help get us there.”
After participating in 7-on-7 passing competitions this summer, the Mustangs finally got to do what they do best on offense, and that’s run the ball out of the split-back veer.
“We’ve got a running back (Calvin Edwards) who I think is good enough to play in the Shrine Bowl or the East-West Game, Misenheimer said. “We’ve got an experienced, all-conference quarterback (Samuel Wyrick), and in Dock Corpening, Donte Means and Austin Hill, we’ve got three guys we know are going to be out there on defense every play. So some positions are real solid. But other positions are still to be had, and I liked the way guys went out and competed for positions today.”
Misenheimer said one thing that’s changed dramatically since his playing days at East in the late 1990s is the technology upgrade.
“We got a lot of plays on film in the morning and we were able to show that film to our guys that same night,” Misenheimer said. “We got the correction process started early.”
Like Nixon and Rollins, Misenheimer put in a full day. At 9:30 p.m., he was done with football and was busy packing and moving boxes.
“We just bought a new house,” he explained cheerfully.
Carson scrimmaged at Wingate against Central Academy and Monroe on Saturday. Observers gave Carson’s defense glowing reviews.
A.L. Brown (vs. Charlotte Country Day) and Davie County (vs. Statesville) also scrimmaged Saturday.
Another high-profile scrimmage is scheduled for Monday with West Rowan being joined in Mount Ulla at 6 p.m. by Charlotte Cathlolic, West Forsyth and Hickory.