Prep Football: Picks, previews

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 8, 2017

By Mike London

Prep previews and picks …

The picks were officially 0-0 last week. Several emailers thanked me for taking a vacation.

Actually I was hard at work, but it was a crazy week. Formulating the previews and picks has been a Thursday evening ritual for me since dinosaurs ruled the planet, but as you probably recall, the weather forecasts were grim and football games were being shuffled around last week as early as noon on Wednesday.

North Rowan’s game at Lexington moved up from Friday to Thursday before being shifted back to Monday. Salisbury stayed the course for Friday, but then the game was canceled. A.L. Brown-Carson and Davie-Mooresville got moved up, while South Rowan-East Rowan got moved back. So there really wasn’t a viable day to try to lay the picks out there.

For better or worse, the picks, very home team-oriented picks, return tonight. The picks are 8-3 for the season. The last time picks were presented to drumrolls and the blaring of horns, A.L. Brown was picked to whip Marvin Ridge and Davie was projected to kick around North Davidson, and you know how well those predictions turned out.

Would I have picked North Rowan to win on the road against Lexington? Yes.

Would I have picked North Rowan to win when Lexington led 37-13 with 11 minutes left? No one is that crazy.

Would I have picked A.L. Brown to beat Carson? Let’s just stay 99.99 percent of the world got that one right.

Would I have picked Davie to beat Mooresville? That would’ve been a miss. No one bothered to inform me that Davie was going to score three TDs on special teams and defense. Davie has been utterly unpredictable to this point.

How about East and South? I think everyone not associated with South was picking East, but the Mustangs did roll more easily than expected. Two pick-sixes and a 214-yard rusher have a tendency to blow a game open.

Would I have picked Salisbury to win the game that never happened? No. On film, Mountain Heritage looks like a 2A beast. No one, especially Salisbury coach Brian Hinson, is a fan of open weeks, but in the big picture, not playing probably helped the Hornets more than playing. They got healthier.

Like Salisbury and like me, West Rowan went 0-0 last week. The Falcons had a scheduled open date, so they’ve had two weeks to prepare for Davie. The Falcons probably are sick of practicing against each other and are ready to hit someone wearing some orange.

The wrinkle in picking games tonight is differences in preparation time. Some teams played Monday. Some played Thursday. Some didn’t play at all.

When you have to play Monday, even if you’re a teenager, you spend Tuesday walking around, getting the soreness out. So you’ve really just got two days to get ready to play again and Wednesday’s rain didn’t help teams get ready. I do believe everyone was able to practice outside.

Teams with preparation-time disadvantages this week are Davie (vs. West Rowan), South Rowan (vs. East Davidson), North Rowan (vs. Carson) and Mooresville (vs. A.L. Brown). Central Cabarrus-East Rowan is a matchup of teams that played Monday. Salisbury-Thomasville is a matchup of teams that haven’t played since Aug. 25.

The Thomasville-Salisbury and South Rowan-East Davidson games provide our first  Central Carolina Conference matchups of the season.

While Davie-West, Central Cabarrus-East Rowan and A.L. Brown-Mooresville provide challenges for correct predictions tonight, the other three matchups also are interesting.

It doesn’t seem likely Carson can beat North Rowan at Eagle Stadium, but it’s still the only “county game” on the docket, so there will be a lot of people there.

Salisbury-Thomasville will be interesting, well, because it’s Salisbury-Thomasville. When they play, the history is something you can reach out and touch.

South Rowan-East Davidson is a game I’ll be following with interest because this is the first 2A league game South has ever played. It will be interesting to see how South matches up with East Davidson, a school with far more in common with South than most of the Cabarrus monsters the Raiders were facing in recent seasons in 3A. East Davidson isn’t what you’d call a football power — the last time the Golden Eagles shared the CCC title was in 2007 — but it’s a respectable, solid, usually competitive 2A program.

South’s move down to the 2A CCC already has noticeably boosted success in fall sports such as cross country, volleyball and girls tennis, and the boys soccer team won two straight against Davidson County opponents this week. Progress is going to come in football in time, but it may not happen right away. Tonight’s game will offer a gauge for South coaches, players and fans. I don’t think South will win, but I think the Raiders will be in the game. That’s something that wasn’t happening often enough in the SPC.

3A Carson (1-2) at 1A North Rowan (2-1)

• Carson took a 50-0 thumping from A.L. Brown last Thursday. North made a late surge on Labor Day to beat Lexington, 44-37.

• North romped 45-3 in the 2016 meeting, as Jaleel Webster rushed for 120 yards.

• Carson has won in the series as recently as 2015. North turned it over five times that night.

• The series is tied 5-all. Carson beat the Cavaliers annually from 2008-11. That 2008 win by the Cougars broke a 22-game losing streak and was the first football victory in Carson history.

• North is bigger, faster and deeper than Carson and should win. Having a short time to prepare for Carson’s triple-option isn’t ideal, but North has faced an option team earlier this season in Salisbury, so its defense has some experience in playing assignments. North backs Webster and Malcolm Wilson are going out-run the Cougars a few times, probably for big-play TDs.

• Pick: North 28, Carson 12


Thomasville (0-2) at Salisbury (1-1), 2A Central Carolina Conference game

• Neither team played last week. Salisbury’s last action was a win vs. Carson. Thomasville’s most recent action was a mauling by 1A power West Montgomery, 47-21. The schools are clashing much earlier in the season than usual.

• Thomasville edged the Hornets in 2016, 28-26.

• Salisbury’s most recent win was a defensive struggle 14-6, in 2015.

• Thomasville leads the series 20-16-1. That includes playoff confrontations in 1973, 1974, 1995 and 2011. Thomasville beat Salisbury twice in 2011. Salisbury’s 52-0 destruction of the Bulldogs in the 1973 WNCHSAA postseason remains one of the more remarkable performances in school history.

• Thomasville has started with two losses to 1As, although West Montgomery is an exceptional 1A. Usually a running team, Thomasville is throwing better than it’s running. The Bulldogs are talented at receiver and linebacker. Salisbury gets linebacker Nick Austin, one of its best players, back from injury tonight. Salisbury QB Griffin Myers, receiver Trell Baker and linebacker Jabril Norman have played at a high level in the early going.

• Pick: Salisbury 21, Thomasville 13


4A Davie County (1-2) at 3A West Rowan (1-1)

• West Rowan was off last week. Davie logged a huge win against Mooresville, 34-13, as the Blue Devils broke down on special teams.

• In 2016, Davie creamed West, 41-0.

• West had beaten the War Eagles seven straight times prior to last season’s disaster, including a 35-14 victory in 2015.

•  Davie still leads the all-time series 27-17-2. That includes a 63-7 romp by Davie in 1965 that is still a negative school record for points allowed in one night by the Falcons.

• Davie produced negligible offense in setbacks against Page and North Davidson. The War Eagles did show signs of life in Monday’s 34-13 victory over Mooresville, including two rushing TDs by Peyton Hampton. Defensively, Davie is still excellent, and Davie smashed Mooresville with its special teams. West lost to Mooresville by 26 and Davie beat Mooresville by 21, but there are still reasons to believe this is going to be a tight game. West appears to have the better offense, especially in the passing game. Davie’s standout receiver Cooper Wall is close to returning, but he’s not expected to play tonight.

• Pick: West 17, Davie 14


South Rowan (0-2) at East Davidson (2-1), 2A Central Carolina Conference game

• South lost to East Rowan, 41-8, on Monday. East Davidson demolished Central Davidson, 49-6, last Thursday.

• It’s the first meeting of the schools. The reason for that is this is South’s first game as a member of a 2A conference. The only Easts that South Rowan ever has played are East Rowan and East Meck.

• While South has lost to 3A county rivals Carson and East Rowan, East Davidson has beaten Providence Grove and Central Davidson and fell to Wheatmore, 7-2.

•  East Davidson has been mostly a running team in its first three games, although sophomore QB Spencer Leonard threw for 161 yards against Wheatmore. South is trying to figure out ways to get the ball in the hands of Kory Sellers more often. He was the Raiders’ most productive player in the loss to East.

• Pick: East Davidson 20, South Rowan 13


3A East Rowan (2-1) at 3A Central Cabarrus (1-2)

• In 2016, Central Cabarrus beat East, 61-42, in one of the wilder games in East history. My ill-fated prediction on that game was Central by 17-14. Oh, well.

• East’s last triumph in the series came in an equally bizzare manner, a 28-21 victory in 2014 that took two nights to play because of weather issues.

• Central leads the all-time series, 21-8.

•  The obvious story line is last season’s East head coach Kenneth McClamrock is now the coach at Central Cabarrus. McClamrock knows East’s personnel really well, which helps Central, but there’s also going to be a lot of incentive for East players to play their best against their former coach. It should be an emotional game, and East head coach John Fitz has East rolling. After a disappointing opener at North Stanly, East has come back to overwhelm two weaker opponents.

Central gave up four sacks on Monday. East Rowan’s Elton Hooper, who didn’t play last season, can sack people.

It’s a really big non-conference game for both teams. A road victory could propel East to a winning season. A home loss would hurt Central Cabarrus, which beat Piedmont before losing to strong 4A Hickory Ridge (by 10) and Mount Pleasant.

• Pick: Central Cabarrus 28, East Rowan 21


4A Mooresville (1-1) at 3A A.L. Brown  (2-1)

• The Wonders were 3-0 when they traveled to Mooresville last season. They returned with a 3-1 record after losing, 23-21.

• A.L. Brown won 23-9 in 2015, as the schools met for the first time since 2008.

• The history of the series between the former mill towns dates back to 1932, when the Kannapolis high school was known as J.W. Cannon. The Wonders dominated the series during the Ron Massey era and hold a 25-13 all-time edge.

•  It’s been hard to read Mooresville, which thumped West Rowan before collapsing against Davie. Mooresville played in a physical game Monday. That helps A.L. Brown, and Wonder coaches also are sure to take advantage of their longer preparation time. QB Eli Wright, who made some plays against West Rowan with his legs, is expected to be back in action tonight.

• Mooresville hasn’t been able to throw at all, with or without Wright, and it’s difficult to run against the Wonders if you can’t make them respect the pass.

A.L. Brown has enjoyed two easy wins (106-0 in those tw0 games), but it also lost to Marvin Ridge, failing its only serious test so far.

It’s Military Appreciation Night. The Wonders should play well at home.

• Pick: A.L. Brown 24, Mooresville 8.