SPENCER — Lexington back Ricky Holmes looks for a hole, but there isn’t one, and the jolt he receives from North Rowan’s onrushing linebacker Xavier Robinson can be heard by people dining at Spencer’s Bojangles.
“Tackle by the X-Man!” yells North’s exuberant P.A. announcer, and Lexington is well on its way to another three-and-out.
“I saw the running back just getting started,” Robinson says. “I knew I was going to make that tackle.”
Lexington has talent.
Receiver Shakeem Peterson stands 6-foot-4 and can catch the football, and QB Raekwon Byrd is feisty and elusive. Yet, the Yellow Jackets go three-and-out six straight times to start Friday’s 33-13 loss to the Cavaliers.
“Third down is the money down,” Robinson says. “That’s when, as a defense, you’ve got to get off the field. That’s what Coach (Stevie) Williams always tells us.”
This is a special North defense — the Cavaliers lead Rowan County in passing defense, rushing defense, scoring defense and total defense (yards allowed) — and it’s led by a very special senior linebacker.
“Tackle by the X-Man” roars over the loud speakers at Eagle Stadium 10 times in the Lexington game, and it’s not just when Robinson is playing linebacker. He does all the special-teams stuff too. If you’re coach Joe Nixon, leader of the state’s top-ranked 2A team, it’s hard to ever find a good reason to take Robinson off the field.
“Robinson has got that ‘it’ factor like (Arkansas’) Chris Smith had when I coached at West Rowan,” explains Stevie Williams, the former Catawba star who directs North’s defense. “He’s just got it.”
Robinson is a pretty amazing year-round, all-round athlete — tough and strong enough to be a fine wrestler but with good enough wheels to place in the 100 and 200 in the Rowan County Track Meet.
It’s hard to see anything on Robinson’s 205-pound frame except muscle, and football is the sport in which he can bring all that speed and strength (he bench-presses nearly 300 pounds) and toughness together in one place at one time.
North (7-0) has a lot going for it, but the Cavaliers, who were playing 1A ball a year ago, aren’t deep.
They faced a crisis situation early this season when running back Andra Cowan was hurting, and then QB Alexis Archie went down with a serious injury that sidelined him for six weeks.
Facing the most challenging part of his schedule — 3A Statesville and 4A Davie — Nixon’s solution was to bolster his offense by adding defensive studs Robinson and Kasaun Coney to the backfield mix to help out Jareke Chambers, the standout running back who was shifting to quarterback to replace Archie.
“Robinson was always part of our ‘heavy package’ when we got down near the goal-line,” Nixon said. “He runs with power and he runs with speed.”
Robinson produced offensive touchdowns in road games at Statesville and Forest Hills.
Ironically, on the same Friday that Archie returned to the North huddle, Robinson enjoyed his biggest offensive outburst.
He plowed Lexington for three touchdowns, including an awesome 43-yard, tackle-breaker that had the crowd roaring.
“I was just running as hard as I could, and then I saw things open up and I saw the end zone,” Robinson said.
With Archie healthy and with North now in 2A conference play (the Cavaliers are at West Davidson on Friday night), Robinson’s role on offense may diminish, but that’s just going to make him even tougher to deal with on defense.
“He’s a physical guy and he’s our leader on the defensive side,” Williams said. “He’s a mature, hard-working kid who understands the game, and he’s one of the most talented kids I’ve ever had a chance to coach. He’s a kid who was born to play football.”
North hasn’t had a county offensive player of the year since Daniel Griffith in 2006, but Chambers certainly has a chance to change that. North hasn’t had a county defensive player of the year since Sa’D Thompson shared the 2005 award with West’s Julian Samolu.
Robinson has a chance to change that.
More evidence of just how special Robinson is came at halftime Friday night when he was voted homecoming king.
“The school voted for me, so it’s a nice honor,” he said. “Everything is great now, but we’ll stay humble and we’ll keep working.”
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