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Prep Football: Week 4 Previews: Mercy can get messy

By Mike London

mike.london@salisburypost.com

Friday’s high school football previews for Week 4 …
The NCHSAA’s mercy rule — a running clock whenever a football score reaches a point differential of 42 or more at halftime or any point thereafter — is well-intentioned.
It was implemented to prevent embarrassment and hard feelings and unnecessary injuries.
The rule still needs tweaking, however, as it turned the fourth quarter of Friday’s A.L. Brown-Northwest Cabarrus blowout into something that wasn’t football.
“A charade” was the phrase aptly used by A.L. Brown radio color analyst and former coach Buddy Amerson, who’s more interested in the truth than political correctness.
After A.L. Brown reached a 42-point lead late in the third quarter with a PAT kick, the rest of the “game” was mostly officials’ discussions and 5-yard, delay-of-game penalties. The Wonders moved slowly in reverse, with the clock churning all the while, before finally taking a knee.
Probably both teams would’ve been better served if their reserves had simply continued to play standard football, regardless of the score. Athletes would’ve gained experience and their families would’ve gotten to watch them play.
But maybe Amerson had the best advice.
“When you reach that 42-point mercy rule, just pick up the ball and go home,” he said.
The mercy rule also will be with us this basketball season, when the point differential reaches 40 in the second half.

•••
It’s still hot, still early and most games so far have been Rowan intra-county games. South hasn’t won yet. Salisbury’s lone win was against South. East’s only win was against Salisbury. North’s only win came against East. Carson’s wins have come against North and Salisbury. West beat Davie, the only victory registered so far by a Rowan team against a team from outside the county.
Ranking the 8 teams in the coverage area: 1. A.L. Brown (3-0), 2. West Rowan (1-1), 3. Carson (2-0), 4. Davie (0-3), 5. North Rowan (1-2), 6. East Rowan (1-2), 7. Salisbury (1-2), 8. South Rowan (0-2).
•••
West Rowan (1-1, 0-0 SPC) at Robinson (2-1, 2-1 SPC)
This is the first meeting of the schools in football. West is coming off a bye week and is playing its SPC opener.
West dropped a close one to a good Mooresville team and came from behind to beat Davie.
Robinson flattened Northwest Cabarrus and Central Cabarrus, but lost to Hickory Ridge on Monday and has had limited preparation time for the Falcons.
West has thrown the ball efficiently. Kacey Otto has 297 passing yards in two games, and Kortez Weeks (15 catches, 166 yards) and Juwan Houston (11 catches, 135 yards) are two of the county’s top receivers.
Otto is West’s leading rusher, but the Falcons will look to get their running backs rolling tonight.
Robinson throws it around and got 300 passing yards from QB Josh Dale on Monday.
•••
East Rowan (1-2, 0-1 SPC) at Cox Mill (0-2, 0-0 SPC)
The Mustangs have beaten Cox Mill, 21-20 and 46-43, the last two seasons, and this one should be just as tight. The key for the Mustangs is limiting turnovers. They’ve turned it over 11 times in three games.
East’s Max Wall (344 rushing yards, 318 passing yards) has been the county’s most exciting player, while Naquis Caldwell (13 catches, 328 yards, 5 TDs) has been the most explosive receiver.
East has lost to North Rowan and Concord and owns a win against Salisbury. Cox Mill has lost close games to 2A Mount Pleasant and 4A North Meck.
East leads the series 3-1. Cox Mill won in 2010.
•••
Carson (2-0, 0-0 SPC) at Central Cabarrus (1-1, 0-1 SPC)
Carson has lost to Central Cabarrus 45-24 and 28-21 the last two seasons, so this is a statement game for the Cougars. The coaching staff acknowledged this week that while wins over North Rowan and Salisbury were nice, the team’s SPC opener is a whole lot more important.
Carson’s defense has been terrific, creating 11 turnovers in two games. Carson’s special teams were a disastrous against Salisbury — one muffed punt, one fumbled kickoff return, one kickoff return TD allowed — so that’s an era where the Cougars have to get better if they’re going to win tonight.
Carson QB Owen White had a big passing game against North Rowan and a big rushing game against Salisbury. The sophomore will try to put both elements together tonight.
Central is athletic but isn’t easy to figure out, beating Mount Pleasant but losing big to Robinson. Central had one game wiped out by weather.
Central leads the series 2-0.
•••
NW Cabarrus (0-2, 0-0) at South Rowan (0-2, 0-0 SPC)
It’s the SPC opener for both teams. The team that makes the fewest turnovers should get a confidence-boosting win.
There are similarities. Both have lost big to A.L. Brown. Both are dedicated to running the ball with a triple-option offense.
South has an outstanding kicking game with punter Marshall Long and kicker Brennan Lambert. Lambert kicked a 50-yard field goal against Salisbury.
South leads the series 20-11.
South won, 18-13, at Northwest last season, but the Trojans won every meeting from 2009-2013.
•••
Lake Norman (2-1) at Salisbury (1-2)
Salisbury dominated special teams but still lost to Carson, 27-13, on Monday.
The Hornets are still trying to figure things out offensively and haven’t scored an offensive TD since beating South Rowan on opening night.
Lake Norman beat 4A MECKA teams Hopewell and North Mecklenburg before losing to highly regarded and undefeated Hough.
The Wildcats will be looking to get well after having their offense held to 170 yards by Hough.
While Lake Norman graduated stellar QB Josh Ladowski, his brother, Cole Ladowski, has replaced him.
Salisbury put up a fight two years ago before losing to Lake Norman, 48-30. Last season, the Hornets went down quietly, 42-7, at Lake Norman in a weather-shortened game.
Lake Norman leads the series 2-0.
•••
Davie (0-3) at North Rowan (1-2)
North Rowan has scored 24, 26 and 21 points while beating East Rowan and losing to Carson and Statesville.
Davie has been shelled by Page and Dudley, two ranked teams good enough to make an average team look bad. Davie had a chance in its game with West Rowan but couldn’t hold a 14-0 lead.
Davie won, 35-32, in last season’s meeting, but North Rowan won in 2013.
The key to the game figures to be North Rowan’s pass rush against a Davie offensive line that has suffered some injuries. If Davie QB Chris Reynolds has time to throw to Ben Ellis and Cooper Wall, the War Eagles could put 28 on the scoreboard. That might be enough.
Sophomore back Xavier Haley (53 carries, 302 yards, 3 TDs) has keyed North’s offense.
Youngs will do the kicking — Jonn, a West Virginia commit, for Davie, and Jacob, a sophomore, for North.
North leads the series 16-12-1.
•••
Mooresville (2-1) at A.L. Brown (3-0)
Mooresville has played three pretty stout opponents (losing to Hough), while the Wonders have enjoyed two mercy-rule cakewalks since a big opening win against Concord.
While the programs haven’t squared off since Mooresille won in 2008, the three most recent meetings have been 27-24, 29-26 and 23-21. Expect something that close again tonight.
Brown’s stats have been crazy. The Wonders have outscored the opposition 149-22, while out-rushing their foes 934 yards to 176.
The Wonders lead the series 14-8.

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