GRANITE QUARRY — West Rowan quarterback Harrison Baucom charged through a Texas-sized hole with 4:48 remaining, and he scored the touchdown that sealed a 34-17 SPC win against East Rowan on Friday.
Challenging Baucom’s toughness was part of East’s gameplan. Three personal fouls were flagged for late or unnecessarily rough hits on the quarterback — West coach Scott Young badly wanted a fourth — and the Mustangs briefly knocked Baucom out of the game late in the first half. So scoring the clinching six had to be the most satisfying touchdown of Baucom’s life.
“I got hit a lot, got hit once in the back 10 yards away from the play,” Baucom said. “But it’s all part of the game, and you’ve got to take it. The one thing I’ll promise is no matter how much I get hit, I’ll get back up.”
He proved that.
Both programs pride themselves on physicality that’s borderline mayhem, so it was a high school football game that resembled a Mixed Martial Arts cage fight.
“East is physical — we’re physical,” Young said. “When they beat us last year, they got physical with us and we backed down some. This time we didn’t back down.”
East’s stunning 13-7 win over the Falcons in 2012 ended West’s 44-game county streak and also started a mini-slide by the Falcons.
Entering Friday’s game, West was a human 9-5 in its last 14 outings, had lost two straight and was a fourth-place team in the SPC.
West (5-3, 3-2) obviously wants to get back to where it once was. The Falcons enjoyed being feared.
“I think our defense is getting back to where we want it,” veteran linebacker Nick Collins said. “This was not a hard one to get up for after what happened last year. Coach Young told us if it wasn’t in our hearts to play with toughness tonight, there was something wrong with us, that we might as well go home.”
Robert Barringer recovered a fumble and set East (3-5, 2-4) up to score first on a Salvador Sanchez 27-yard field goal.
“West had penalties that helped us, and we really should’ve gotten a touchdown there,” East coach Danny Misenheimer said.
A roughing-the-passer penalty helped West drive for a go-ahead TD on Daisean Reddick’s 18-yard run.
Then West got the first huge break when a tipped pass went directly to DB Anthony Pharr, and he returned it for a touchdown.
“We shot ourselves in the foot in that first half,” East receiver Seth Wyrick said. “We were running the ball good, but three early turnovers put us in a hole.”
Down 14-3, East got a long punt return by Max Wall to the West 22. The Mustangs made it 14-10 when Samuel Wyrick passed to tight end Simon Soles on fourth-and-goal from the 4 with 2:32 left in the half.
Baucom was shaken up on West’s last possession of the half, but Kacey Otto came in and lofted a scoring pass to Darius Gabriel, who was knocked into the end zone by tacklers. That put West up 21-10.
“Kacey works hard all week,” Baucom said. “He came through and Darius made a play for him.”
The defenses dominated a scoreless third quarter.
“Our offense played in spurts, but our defense couldn’t have played any better,” Misenheimer said.
After Baucom’s huge TD made it 27-10, East got a TD on a Wyrick-to-Wyrick pass with 2:35 left.
A Thomas Farmer pick — yes, West put it in the air at 2:11 — gave East the ball back. But West safety Najee Tucker’s pick-6 on a halfback pass by Max Wall put the exclamation point on the Falcons’ victory.
Donte Means’ pick-6 keyed East’s upset of West in 2012. This time the Falcons got two of them.
“It’s been a real tough stretch for us,” Young said. “Definitely our biggest win of the season.”
How big was it?
“It feels like taking a nice cold drink on a hot summer day,” Collins said.
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