North Rowan walked off the field devastated after a gut-wrenching loss to West Montgomery last year in the first round of the state playoffs. It was illustrative of a team that was learning to compete but struggled with how to win. It looked like the Cavaliers were close to being great, but how great, and how long would it take?
For the last three months, Rowan County fans have seen the Cavs answer those questions emphatically. Most of the last decade, West Rowan and Salisbury have carried the torch for the County. This season, It’s pretty much North and everyone else.
The Cavs (10-0, 4-0 CCC) had come-from-behind wins against Statesville and Davie County early on, but since then have rode a green wave of terror through the remaining schedule. It’s not quite the days of the airport offense with quarterbacks Mitch Ellis or Mario Sturdivant, but North has outscored Central Carolina Conference foes 172-32.
Since integration and consolidation, only seven Rowan County teams have finished unbeaten, the latest being West Rowan’s 2010 team. Current North coach Joe Nixon carried an assistant coaching role on that team.
“We got a great group of guys that are fun to be around,” Nixon said. “They enjoy playing the game. It’s been an honor to coach them.”
The lone obstacle in the way of a unbeaten regular season is Salisbury, who has won two of three after losing seven straight to open the year. It’s Senior Night at Eagle Stadium, but as a lofty seed in the 2A West bracket, the Cavs should have several more chances to entertain the fans in Spencer.
The last time North beat Salisbury on the field was 2003. The Cavs were awarded a win in 2008 when SHS had to forfeit games for an ineligible player. Officially, North’s lost eight of nine to Salisbury. Should North win tonight, it will likely be the top seed in its playoff bracket, which will include stout foes like Winston-Salem Carver, High Point Andrews and Reidsville.
Either way it’s been a remarkable turnaround. Two years ago, it wasn’t unusual for North not to get all the right players out for a punt. Last year, it doubled its win total. Now, it’s flirting with perfection and has the stats to prove it. Jareke Chambers is the county leader in total offense and already owns two school records and tied a county record as a junior. Xavier Robinson and Kasaun Coney are County Defensive Player of the Year candidates.
“It speaks volumes about these kids,” Nixon said. “They’ve worked extremely hard to get themselves in this position.”
Salisbury, meanwhile, feels good coming off a victory against West Daivdson, its second in three games. The bad news is the Hornets only had three days to prepare for North. Unless a upset happens tonight, SHS is not expected to make the playoffs.
Howard Platt and Wilson Cherry will call the game on WSTP 1490.
Carson is alone in third place in the South Piedmont Conference after a big win against Hickory Ridge. The Cougars have run for 688 yards in its last two games and will need a big night on the ground at Cox Mill tonight.
West, Hickory Ridge, Cox Mill and Northwest Cabarrus are tied for fourth in the league. West and HR face off tonight in Harrisburg. It looks strange for the Falcons to have 5-5 beside their name after playing in four straight state championship games not long ago. Strange was the theme of last week’s loss to Cox Mill when the Chargers picked up a live ball on a missed field goal and ran it in for the go-ahead score.
East Rowan needs a win against South Rowan to be playoff eligible. It’s South’s senior night and its last chance for a win. One playoff projection online had East as a 16-seed traveling to No.1-seed Concord.
A.L. Brown hosts Hopewell in a big MECKA contest and Davie hosts Mt. Tabor in a challenging clash before the playoffs.
Ryan Bisesi can be reached at 704-797-4258 or email@example.com