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High School football: West Rowan rolls Salisbury

MOUNT ULLA — To the untrained eye, West Rowan appears set to taxi down the runway and take off.
But there was something about its 44-7 victory over visiting Salisbury on Friday that kept the Falcons uniquely grounded.
“This game showed how good we could be,” defensive end Darius Williamson said after West dominated on both sides of the ball. “We actually could have played better. We played down to their level. We gave up too much.”
That’s not the assessment you’d expect from the defensive leader of a team that forced four turnovers and limited winless Salisbury to 148 total yards. At least, it wasn’t until head coach Scott Young chimed in with a less-than-glowing review.
“We’ve got to get better,” he deadpanned afterward. “But we’re 2-1 heading into an open week, and we beat a county rival. So I’m somewhat pleased.”
West Rowan was certainly more sturdy than spectacular against the Hornets (0-3). Running back Harrison Baucom — the county’s offensive bellwether in August — was more workhorse than thoroughbred, lumbering for 98 yards and a third-quarter touchdown. Junior quarterback Kacey Otto continued his gradual growth, passing for 74 yards and a touchdown and plunging into the end zone on a 1-yard run to open the scoring.
“We put points on the board,” Otto said. “That’s what matters. I got some better protection, but also I stayed in the pocket longer. I wasn’t trying to run away from trouble.”
Salisbury, which has faced three 3A schools in three weeks, is experiencing technical difficulties. The Hornets have allowed 140 points in three games — and with 4A schools on their dance card the next three weeks — there’s no relief in sight.
“We just do the smallest possible things wrong and they turn into big things,” said Salisbury quarterback Riley Myers. “Like fumbling on our first play. That’s something we can’t do.”
Salisbury forced a West Rowan punt on the game’s opening possession and seemed primed to take advantage — until scatback Willie Clark lost the ball and 270-pound junior Derrick Moreland pounced on it.
“That’s the second time that has happened to us,” said Ryan Crowder, Salisbury’s second-year coach. “Against Carson (in Week 1), we started by getting a three-and-out, then gave it right back to them. We’ve got to quit killing ourselves.”
West Rowan capitalized seven plays later when Otto muscled his way into the end zone and nourished its lead when Jovon Quarles returned a punt 51 yards for a touchdown with 4:57 remaining in the first quarter.
“That was a huge play,” Young said. “It kind of jump-started us. Amos Duncan almost blocked the punt in the end zone and then he laid the key block to spring him on the return.”
West used Baucom’s 35-yard field goal and a 32-yard scoring pass from reserve quarterback Kortez Weeks to Juwan Houston to take a 23-0 second-period lead. The knockout punch was delivered late in the first half after Williamson recovered a Salisbury fumble on the Hornets’ 25-yard line.
“They had a lot of trouble with their footwork,” Williamson said. “You know, taking handoffs and keeping the ball secure.”
Facing first-and-10 from the 11 with 8.2 seconds on the clock, Otto showed uncanny maturity when he alertly completed a touchdown pass to Weeks as time expired.
“I was supposed to look for a deep-6, but both guys (Baucom and Shakir Simmons) were covered,” Otto said. “I stepped up in the pocket and went through my progressions. (Weeks) stretched out for it and made a really nice catch.”
Salisbury got on the scoreboard late in the third quarter when Myers rolled out to his right and hit Ryan Jones with a 5-yard touchdown pass. It was impressive, but simply too little too late.
“When you’re playing against good teams, it’s harder to overcome little mistakes,” Crowder said. “Right now we can’t afford to make mistakes. We can’t turn the ball over four times and give up a punt return if we expect to win.”

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