Archie’s 361-yard performance shows he’s healthy
SPENCER — North Rowan’s 6-foot-3, 215-pound lefty quarterback Alexis Archie is fascinated with North Rowan’s history of aerial circuses.
When Archie was informed North opponents once were greeted by “Welcome to the Airport” signs and banners when they arrived at Eagle Stadium, he smiled with appreciation for the talented QBs who preceded him in green and gold.
“That must have been something to see,” he said.
If the “Airport” has been quiet for a while, the runways have officially been reopened. Archie threw for 361 yards in Friday’s 53-12 CCC win against West Davidson that improved the top-ranked Cavaliers to 8-0, their best start since they were Aiporting opponents to death back in 1994.
Archie’s outing was the fourth-biggest passing game in North — and Rowan County history. Mario Sturdivant threw for a record 414 yards against East Rowan in 1997. Mitch Ellis tossed for 378 against Mount Pleasant in 1993. Sturdivant put up a 362 against East Davidson in 1999.
“It’s cool that all the guys at the top in the county are North guys,” Archie said.
North definitely has been the county’s flight school. The top six all-time passing games belong to Cavaliers and 14 of the top 16. North names such as Graham Hosch, Sakelo Lilly, Daniel Griffith and Alfonzo Miller also can be found near the top of the list.
North coach Joe Nixon is basically a conservative, run-the-ball kind of guy who’s never going to throw it around like North did in the 1990s, but he understands how critical stretching the field with the pass is going to be if the Cavaliers are going to make the playoff run they want to make.
“It’s very important for us to be balanced,” Nixon said. “We’ve got some good kids, and we should have the ability to run it or throw it.”
North showed that Friday, not only passing for 361 but rushing for 209. That’s 570 yards of offense.
Making Archie’s performance more impressive was that it was his first full game after returning from an injury for spot duty against Lexington the previous week.
He missed four full games, and there also was an open week in there.
“When Alexis went down with a broken arm in the Carson game in Week 2, our hearts just sank for him,” North offensive coordinator Ben Hampton said. “He’d worked so hard in the offseason and he’d learned the playbook backwards and forwards. He was geared for a big year, and then, all of a sudden, we didn’t know when he could play again.”
Archie was injured Aug. 30. On Sept. 27, when North played at Forest Hills, North coaches were astonished to see Archie throwing footballs 50 yards in warmups. They realized he was getting close and his teammates could see how much rehab he was doing trying to get back on the field.
“For Alexis, it’s never been about what he could do for Alexis,” Hampton said. “He wanted to get back for his team.”
A lot of people weren’t sure exactly what North would do when Archie was available because record-setting running back Jareke Chambers was scintillating while filling in for Archie at quarterback. Chambers put up two games with 300-plus yards of total offense (rushing and passing) and he sparked the comebacks against Statesville and Davie that propelled North to No.1 in the 2A state poll.
“Jareke is an unbelievable athlete and did an unbelievable job in some big games,” Hampton said. “But it’s still a no-brainer. It’s not like Archie can’t run the ball. Jareke was really good as a dual-threat quarterback, but now he’s a triple threat because now Alexis can throw it to him.”
Having a healthy Archie in the backfield with Chambers is a defensive coordinator’s nightmare. Now North can do a lot of things a lot of ways, and defensive studs Xavier Robinson and Kasaun Coney won’t have to help out on offense as much.
“Now they can be with their defensive coaches on the sideline making adjustments instead of playing offense,” Hampton said. “I know everyone used to play both ways, but it’s a different game now. It’s important to be able to concentrate on one side of the ball.”
North knew it would throw quite a bit at West Davidson, although no one was contemplating the huge yardage total that occurred.
“We had game-planned some passing stuff,” Nixon said. “But it still just kind of happened. We had good calls. The offensive line did a good job protecting. The receivers ran good routes, and Alexis looked like he got back to game speed. He was on time with his throws.”
Archie, who threw three TD passes opening night against East Rowan, agreed that it “just happened.”
“It helped me that I had a full week of practice, and when the game started we saw a little bit of weakness in their secondary and we saw our offensive line could give us plenty of time,” Archie said. “You mostly have to credit the line and the receivers for all those yards. Darrell Taylor made a big play on a read-option. And I threw Cam Sifford a 10-yard pass that he turned into 80 yards.”
Hampton could see Archie’s confidence swell as the night went on.
“Friday’s game eased his mind that he’s going to be fine,” Hampton said. “He got his feet dug in out there, and he ran the offense the way we expect him to. It’s his offense to run, and this was a big confidence-builder.”
And now Archie is a part of that great “Airport” tradition he admires.
“We kind of put on a show for the crowd,” he said. “We’re hoping there will be more games like that.”