High School Football: West adjusts, beats Concord, 44-30

Published 2:08 am Saturday, September 22, 2018

By Mike London

MOUNT ULLA —  Concord’s defensive gameplan wasn’t complicated — stop West Rowan’s record-setting, big-play guy Jalen Houston, with double coverage.

“West wants to get the ball to 10, so what we took that away,” Concord coach Marty Paxton said. “We weren’t going to let 10 beat us. We were basically saying, ‘Ok, what else have you got?'”

It was solid, sensible strategy, but West defeated it. The Falcons’ offensive line opened gaping holes in the ground game for Jaden Perry and Dylan Sigmon, who combined for five rushing touchdowns. West also got three key third-down conversions on Payne Stolsworth to Davis Tadlock completions, plus a clinching Stolsworth-to-Quay Weeks touchdown toss with 5:44 remaining.

In a 44-30 victory that got a little frenzied at the end, West (3-2) won big on special teams and was better than the score sounds on defense. West got a flurry of tackles from linebacker Baiden Suddarth, a fumble recovery from DB Jason Artis and  interceptions from linebacker Daniel Durham and safety Reggie Everhart.

“They’ve got two guys committed to Houston, at all times, so we’ve got to be able to run the ball and we did run it effectively,” West coach Joe Nixon said. “Our offensive line did a great job, held up in pass protection as well as blocking in the running game. Those guys had their best game of the season.”

Concord is 0-5, not for a lack of athletes or smart coaches, but because of failures to execute simple stuff. The Spiders practically handed West three first-half touchdowns with punting woes and they consistently put themselves in negative situations with penalties. The Spiders were flagged three times in the first 63 seconds to set the tone.

“The penalties hurt us early, got us in a hole,” Paxton said. “We were moving the ball pretty well, but then our punting hurt us. Our special teams just killed us. And give West credit. They’re well-coached. They made adjustments to what we were taking away. They did what they needed to do to win the ballgame.”

West didn’t score on its first possession, but a towering punt backed the Spiders up inside their 10. That led to a blocked punt. West only had to move 3 yards for a TD, Perry accomplished that modest mission, and it was 7-0.

The fumble recovery by Artis led to another scoring burst by Perry, and the Falcons were in charge, 14-0, after a quarter.

“We were disappointed by the way we played at A.L. Brown last week,” Artis said. “We played a lot harder tonight, and we chased after their quarterbacks and tried to hold on once we got them. Mostly we just played our hearts out. We played with emotion.”

Concord used two mobile quarterbacks, Dajon Johnson and Jo Jo Bond. Both could scramble around and through potential tacklers and both could sling it a long way. Bond spotted a wide-open Malik Tobias for a 27-yard TD that put Concord on the board early in the second quarter.

But Concord’s hold on momentum was brief. Two short punts — one shank, one that barely got airborne — gave the Falcons great chances to score. Perry and Sigmon punched in touchdowns less than two minutes apart, and West led 27-7.

Johnson got in the end zone before the break, but West took a 27-14 lead to the locker room.

West firmly established control in the third quarter, keeping the ball and chewing clock behind that inspired offensive line.

“It feels really good when it’s all coming together like that,” West center Levi Jenkins said. “We were making some holes. Definitely the best we’ve played as a unit.”

West was also fighting the penalty bug, so the only points the Falcons managed in the third quarter came on a field goal by Fredrico Cruz, who would also contribute five PATs.

“I’d love to see how good we can be if we could eliminate some of the penalties,” Nixon said. “We just self-explode at times.”

West led 30-14 heading to the fourth quarter — still a two-score game — but the defense got stops and Stolsworth threw his ninth TD pass of the season and 57th of his career when Weeks hauled in a 25-yard strike with 5:44 left. That put the Falcons up by 23.

“They were playing 10 to 15 yards off the ball against Houston, so we couldn’t get our deep game going tonight,” Stolsworth said. “But we finally hit a big pass play in the fourth quarter. Their cornerback was biting hard all night and Weeks ran by him on a hitch-and-go. It was an easy throw, and he caught it.”

Weeks had dropped a couple, but he snagged a big one. Falcon receivers had quite a few drops in the first half, bobbles that limited Stolsworth’s statistical night.He was accurate.

Houston ran the ball quite a bit for the Falcons in the fourth quarter.

“Reminded me of my middle school days,” Houston said. “I enjoyed it.”

West opponents might see more of that in the future. If West can’t throw it to Houston, they’ll hand it off to him.

“We’ve got to find ways to get the ball in his hands some,” Nixon said.

In the final 4:30, Concord scored two touchdowns, while Sigmon got his second one for the Falcons. Concord recovered an onside kick with 1:02 remaining. West needed Everhart’s interception to be able to extinguish the clock with two kneel-downs.

“Our guys fought and they are always going to fight down to the last play,” Paxton said. “I can’t complain at all about our effort. We just have to execute better and hope the ball starts bouncing our way.”

It was far from a flawless performance by West, but Nixon will take it. Especially after losing 42-13 at A.L. Brown in a disappointing showing last week.

“We missed a lot of tackles last week and we missed a bunch more tonight,” Nixon said. “But tonight we were playing harder. We had 11 guys running to the football. That way if a guy does miss, he’s got teammates there to clean things up.”

West rushed for 200 yards.

It was the first win by a Rowan school against a Cabarrus school this season in seven tries.


NOTES: Concord plays Berry Academy, also 0-5, next week. Berry yielded 61 points last night… West was playing its first home game since Aug. 17 and will be back on the road next week at Cox Mill (3-2). … Concord’s Jarrad Presutti picked off a Stolsworth pass in the end zone. … Weeks had a second TD catch negated by an offensive pass interference call.