Football is back! High school season openers tonight
By Mike London
Friday’s high school football season openers:
North Rowan at East Rowan
Opening night is what it is.
That first game may or may not mean anything. North Rowan drilled East Rowan, 43-21, in a 2014 opener in Spencer that was even more one-sided than the score indicates.
But that ugly loss had little impact on East’s overall season. Despite the rude welcome to Rowan football in his head-coaching debut, the Mustangs’ Kenneth McClamrock was lauded as Rowan County Coach of the Year last December after his Mustangs reached the third round of the 3A playoffs.
In other words, how you finish is way more important than how you start.
East Rowan almost always opens against a county opponent. You have to go back to 1992 when the Mustangs battled North Davidson’s Black Knights on opening night to find a year when East didn’t start out with a Rowan foe.
While this will be the third straight year East has started a season with North, it’s only the fifth time in their history that the Mustangs have opened against the Cavaliers. East beat North in 2009 and 2010 openers. North rolled against the Mustangs in 2013 and 2014.
North’s new coach, Ben Hampton, has a tough act to follow. Joe Nixon, Hampton’s brother-in-law, departed for West Rowan after posting 31 wins in three seasons.
If you’re wondering how recent North coaches have fared in their debuts: Nixon won, 19-14, against Carson in 2012; Tasker Fleming lost, 60-0, to West Rowan in 2008; Avery Cutshaw lost, 28-14, to South Rowan in 2002; Roger Secreast won, 20-15, against West Rowan in 1988, and Larry Thomason’s first North team tied South Iredell, 20-20, in 1969.
One thing that’s certain about Hampton’s debut — it won’t end in a tie.
The matchup: North should have a fierce defense. The front six in the Cavaliers’ 4-2-5 alignment are all experienced. But the Cavaliers essentially got wiped out as far as skill-position players, so there’s mystery and uncertainty regarding North’s offense.
East Rowan lost standouts on both sides of the ball, but the Mustangs do return an offensive go-to guy in running back Max Wall as well as all-county DB Wesley Porter.
The series: North leads, 38-16-1, and has won the last four. East’s most recent victory in the series was a 21-20 decision in coach Chad Tedder’s debut in 2010.
South Rowan at Salisbury
South Rowan’s new coach, Daniel Yow, is a former Salisbury assistant, so this is a homecoming for him.
Whether it’s a pleasant one or not remains to be seen.
The schools did not meet in football in either 2013 or 2014. Salisbury’s 64-9 and 56-14 romps in 2011-12 may have had something to do with that.
The last time South beat the Hornets was a 38-20 opening-night victory in 2009. Of course, that was the year South was 9-3 and the Raiders beat several schools that season they haven’t beaten since.
South doesn’t change head coaches often. Yow is only the sixth since the school opened in 1961. Two of those coaches (Reid Bradshaw in 1971 and Rick Vanhoy in 1995) won their first game.
Jason Rollins’ debut at the South helm was a 41-13 loss to Salisbury in 2006.
It’s interesting that Larry Deal’s first game as South’s head coach in 1983 was a shutout loss — 14-0 to North Rowan — but the Raiders still finished 11-2 (a school record for wins). Just more proof that opening night doesn’t necessarily set the tone for the season.
Deal’s grandson, Austin Chrismon, will be in action for the Raiders tonight, a reminder that time really flies.
Salisbury has opened against South Rowan six times previously. The Hornets won five of those.
The matchup: Salisbury has an experienced offense, keyed by three veteran offensive linemen, plus a reasonably experienced defense. The Hornets have almost as many seniors as South has players on the roster.
South should have the county’s best kicking game, but mostly it will rely on new faces. Heath Barringer takes over as the starting quarterback and should be good, but the Raiders will be trying to protect him with a very green offensive line.
Salisbury has two exceptional players on defense in D.J. Alexander and Darius Jackson, and they’re likely to cause problems for the Raiders.
The series: Salisbury leads, 16-7, and has won eight of the last nine meetings.
West Rowan at Mooresville
While West’s Nixon is technically a new head coach, he’s a new coach with a track record of success as a West assistant and head coach at North.
West Rowan has opened the season with Mooresville 12 times previously, and the Blue Devils hold a 7-5 edge in those games.
The Falcons have opened with Mooresville the last four seasons, and Mooresville has won three, including the memorable 2011 contest that ended the Falcons’ 46-game winning streak.
Several West head coaches made their debuts against Mooresville. Dale Hedrick won in 1978; Raymond Daugherty won in 1981, and Ron Raper lost to the Blue Devils in 1989.
The matchup: On paper, the Falcons have to be regarded as Rowan’s strongest team. They have more proven players back than anyone else, especially at the skill positions. West is the only county team returning its starting quarterback (Kacey Otto). Otto played baseball all summer as Rowan County American Legion’s center fielder, but he’ll be ready to go. He’s got all kinds of weapons, notably returning receivers Juwan Houston and Kortez Weeks and running back Javon Quarles.
But it’s still going to be a difficult road game for West. Mooresville is a good 4A club coming off a 10-win season and has some serious studs on defense.
The series: Mooresville leads, 24-21, although West went 10-6 against the Blue Devils during Scott Young’s head-coaching tenure.
Greensboro Page at Davie
Davie is opening against Page for the fifth straight season.
Davie is 2-2 against the Pirates the last four years, alternating victories.
Davie won, 45-40, last season.
The matchup: While Davie expects to be improved on defense, it’s more likely to be a 45-40 game than 7-3. Davie believes new QB Chris Reynolds will be good, and he has proven receivers, led by Ben Ellis.
The series: Davie leads 6-4, including a zany, 50-49 overtime victory in 2008. Davie came back from being down 27-0 to win that one.