Healthy Chambers ready to roll

Published 1:58 am Thursday, October 16, 2014

By Mike London

SPENCER — Sweat-soaked and breathless, North Rowan running back Jareke Chambers plopped on a couch in the coach’s office Wednesday afternoon.

The senior had pushed himself to the brink of exhaustion in P.E. class dodgeball, of all things, but if they’re keeping score, Chambers is determined to win.

“That’s the competitive spirit of Jareke Chambers right there,” P.E. teacher/football assistant Kelly Everhart said with a smile.

Chambers is 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, muscular and powerful for his size, but still a long way from big.

It’s that competitive spirit combined with great vision, great versatility and unusual elusiveness that have made a normal-sized guy a Shrine Bowl pick and the recipient of scholarship offers from East Carolina, Georgia Southern and Old Dominion.

“You think about all the great players in North Carolina — what an honor to play in the Shrine Bowl,” Chambers said. “Not many people from North Rowan have played in that game, so that’s an honor too.”

It’s been 11 years since the Cavaliers had a Shrine Bowler. Chambers won’t be out of place. He can run, he can catch, he can return punts and kickoffs, and he can even throw a nice spiral if necessary.

Chambers’ stats have reached the eye-popping range. He holds all the school rushing records — yards in a game (272), yards in a season (2,018 in 2013) and yards in a career (4,047). He’s the sixth in the county to reach 4.000 yards. He also holds North Rowan records for touchdowns in a game (6), season (31) and career (63). He has 54 rushing TDs, seven receiving TDs and two return TDs. That’s not counting the five TD passes he tossed while playing quarterback last season when Alexis Archie was injured.

“Jareke is the definition of a weapon,” North Rowan offensive coordinator Ben Hampton said.

That weapon has overcome adversity. Chambers sprained an ankle early in the East Rowan game on opening night. His meager numbers from that game — six carries for 23 yards — put him in a hole in the county rushing race, but he’s made up ground, starting with Week 2.

“I was crying on the sideline at that East game,” Chambers said. “Teammates asked my why I was crying, and it was because I couldn’t help my team.”

While Chambers worried that he was letting his teammates down for a while, his ankle came around slowly but surely. There was a 256-yard rushing game against Davie while he was still healing.

“I’m close to 100 percent now,” he said.

Friday night’s CCC opener at Lexington wasn’t easy. Lexington hasn’t played a bad team yet, so the Yellow Jackets’ winless record is deceiving. Even with two scoring runs by Chambers, the Cavaliers led only 14-12 at halftime.

North Rowan finally broke it open in the third quarter with a pick-six by Jaleel Hitchens, and Chambers’ third TD of the night sealed victory in a lightning-shortened game. Chambers finished with 16 carries for 126 yards. A holding penalty across the field cost him an 80-yard run and a 200-yard night. The yellow flag dropped shortly before the first lightning flash.

“That was a crazy play,” Chambers said. “The play was supposed to go inside, but it was clogged up, so I bounced it out. I ran into a guy, so then I bounced it again.”

The game moves more slowly for Chambers than it does for average people. It’s not unusual for him to analyze a long TD run after a game and list four or five jersey numbers that he juked. That’s one of his gifts. He sees everything.

“Some of the cuts he makes leave you shaking your head,” Hampton said. “You hate to compare running backs because they’re all different, but Jareke is like Bush (Shaun Warren), the kid I coached at Carson, in some ways. They both could bulldoze it for 10 yards at a time between the tackles but they also could take it all the way any time they touched it. At some point, no matter how good his blocking is, a running back has to make someone miss. Jareke is one of the best at making them miss.”

While Chambers is famous for his dashes to daylight, what North Rowan head coach Joe Nixon appreciates most is his reliability.

“He’s learned patience and he’ll let his O-line work,” Nixon said. “He runs the ball extremely hard between the tackles. He gets tough yards for us.”

The 2013 Rowan County Offensive Player of the Year has gotten a lot of yards — tough ones, as well as exciting ones — for a long time.

“The best thing I can tell you about Jareke is that he’s all about North Rowan and he’s never about Jareke,” Hampton said. “If he got 500 yards and we lost, he would consider it a terrible night.”

After his break Wednesday concluded, Chambers raced back to his teammates.

“Did we win?” he asked.

He punched the air when the news was good.

Mike London: 704-797-4259;