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West Rowan struggles on offense, falls to Mooresville, 21-7

By Dennis Davidson
dennis.davidson@salisburypost.com

MOUNT ULLA — West Rowan struggled on offense, especially in the first half, and fell to Mooresville, 21-7, in its football season-opener here Friday night.

The Falcons managed just 29 total yards and one first down in the opening half, but the West defense kept the game scoreless until late in the second quarter.

Mooresville completed a 10-play, 76-yard drive with a 19-yard scoring romp by running back Quamir Conner with 3:40 left in the first half to grab a 7-0 lead.

A West turnover with 1:15 left gave the ball back to 4A Mooresville and quarterback Bobby Davis dashed into the end zone from 16 yards out, with just 24 seconds remaining.

That score turned the hill that West had to climb in the second half look more like a mountain.

“We left our defense on the field an awful lot in the first half and a couple of mistakes here and there … they took advantage of them,” said West coach Joe Nixon. “But I’ve got to tip my cap to Mooresville. They came in with a good game plan, they executed it and I didn’t do a very good job of getting our guys ready to play tonight. We’ll look at our corrections and try to get better for next week.”

The Falcons had received the opening kickoff and on the first play from scrimmage, quarterback Payne Stolsworth lofted a beautifully-thrown pass, deep down the right sideline to wide-open speedster Jalen Houston. However, the pass was just out of Houston’s reach.

“We had a good call there,” said Nixon. “We had a hitch called and converted to a take-off and it was just inches away. But that’s just football.”

After the near-miss, West was soon punting but got another chance when the Blue Devils fumbled Stolsworth’s first punt of the night at the West 39-yard line.

Again, the Falcons were three plays and out.

“We had talked all week about first-game mistakes and that botched punt return early was the first big one on us,” said first-year Mooresville head coach Thad Wells. “But the defense came up big there and saved us. I can’t say enough about the defense. We challenged our defense to play with a lot of intensity and they sure did that.”

Nixon was disappointed with his team inability to run the ball, netting just four yards in the first half and later, in the third quarter, West couldn’t score on a first-and-goal at the 5-yard line.

“We’ve got to get better at running the ball when we want to,” said Nixon. “You’ve got to be able to punch it in at the goal line but hats off to their defense. They got a stop and we didn’t get it done.”

After a scoreless third quarter, Mooresville delivered the knock-out blow with 5:37 left in the contest. On a third-and-20 from his own 22-yard line, the quick and elusive Davis kept the ball and sped 43 yards. Two plays later, Davis hit receiver AJ Stewart with a quick out and Stewart did the rest — scoring a 28-yard TD.

“Bobby (Davis) is a play maker and has those bursts in him,” said Wells. “And he made a couple of huge plays tonight at big moments, when the game was still close.”

West finally mounted an excellent drive as Stolsworth led an 80-yard march in eight plays. Facing a fourth down at the Mooresville 12-yard line, Stolsworth connected with receiver Ty’kese Warren for a touchdown. Warren made a nice move at the goal line to get into the end zone. Fredrico Cruz kicked the extra point, but only 2:53 remained in the game.

The Falcons had one more possession, but Stolsworth’s final pass was intercepted by the Blue Devils’ Sean Hill.

“It feels great to get the first win and get that off our shoulders,” said Wells. “We knew West would be tough and well-coached, and I thought they were pretty polished for a first game. Defensively they did a good job against us early and offensively, they stuck to their plan.”

Davis led all offensive players with 130 yards rushing on 16 carries. He also completed nine of 14 passes for 80 yards. Conner picked up 66 more yards on the ground and the Blue Devils totaled 211 rushing yards.

Stolsworth was 13-of-34 passing for 166 yards. But the Falcons managed just 54 yards rushing on 27 attempts, led by Dylan Sigmon’s 37 yards (eight carries) and 36 from Jaden Perry (16 attempts).

Three West receivers caught three passes — Davis Tadlock, Cameron Graham and Warren — but remarkably, Houston was held without a catch.

While disappointed, Nixon added that all of the team’s goals can be reached.

“We don’t ever look at a lot of positives when we don’t win the game, but we’ll look at the film,” Nixon said. “We want to win every game we play, but all of our goals that we made as a team are still intact after Week 1. That’s what we’ll focus on and we’ll try to control what we can control.”

NOTES: Baiden Suddarth and DJ Robinson recovered fumbles for West. … Stolsworth punted seven times in the first half (33-yard average), but none in the second half. … Stewart had a 59-yard kickoff return for Mooresville to start the second half, but it led to no points — a missed 42-yard field goal. … West will visit county rival North Rowan next Friday. … prior to the game, the West administration retired the jersey numbers of greats K.P. Parks (2) and Chris Smith (42) and one for late head coach Scott Young (with his win total, 172).

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