High school football: North Davidson overwhelms Hornets

Published 12:24 am Friday, October 26, 2018

By Mike London

SALISBURY —  One snap into Thursday’s game against North Davidson at Ludwig Stadium, Salisbury running back Jamarie McCollough, a key component of the SHS game plan, was injured.

Raheim Walker and Jahbreel Russell already were out, so the next man up was Jaiwon Poole, all 5-foot-1 and 130 pounds of him. Poole had to shoulder the running game against mighty North Davidson. It was a David vs. Goliath situation if there’s ever been one, and courage will only take you so far.

North Davidson physically overwhelmed the Hornets, 49-13, with a running clock employed for the whole second  half of the 2A Central Carolina Conference matchup, but it could’ve been a lot worse. If Salisbury had thrown in the towel, it might have been 60-0.

“North Davidson drove it and scored in the third quarter to make it, 49-0, and I called our defense over and told them that we had to keep playing,” Salisbury head coach Brian Hinson said. “We got a lot of kids hurt tonight and lot of kids got banged up tonight, but we never stopped playing. I was proud of our effort. North Davidson is a really good football team, but our effort never stopped. As a coach, that’s all you can ask for.”

North Davidson head coach Brian Flynn had been genuinely concerned about this game, on the road against a team that had given the other powerhouse squad in the Central Carolina Conference — Ledford — all that it could handle on Oct. 12. He worried that his fifth-ranked team might look ahead to next week’s Ledford game. He worried that Salisbury’s big-play people might make big plays.

“This was Salisbury’s shot,” said Flynn, a former Catawba receiver.  “Salisbury knocks us off and they’ve still got a chance to be CCC co-champions. My concern was that we’d be looking ahead to Ledford and that we would not match Salisbury’s effort. But I was very proud of the way our guys handled everything. They came out business-like and they came out ready to go. We played very energetic and very physical.”

Salisbury’s plan for dealing with Ledford had been simple. Ledford runs better than it throws, so Salisbury’s defense stacked the box against the run.

“The game plan against Ledford was to make them throw it, and we executed well enough that we had a chance to win that game,” Hinson said. “We knew North Davidson does both things well, but our plan was to try to take away the run and make their quarterback (Landon Moore) beat us.  That’s what he did. He beat us in the first half.”

North Davidson stopped Salisbury’s opening possession without much stress, and then drove 65 yards to score. That first North Davidson TD was telling. It was a run/pass option for Moore, who rolled right. Hornet DBs flew up  to challenge the run, and Moore had an easy flip to Jackson Perrell in the end zone for a 7-0 lead.

“They were playing run, and Moore made the right read,” Flynn said. “We had to replace our quarterback and running back this year, and I’m sure that was the big question about us, but offensively, we’ve been able to stay balanced and make plays.”

Moments after Perrell’s TD, Salisbury (5-4, 5-2) had a fumble on the exchange, and Chance Pressley fell on the ball for the Black Knights (9-1, 8-0) at the SHS 22. Carrying Hornets, ND back Kobe Brown stampeded into the end zone on the next play.

“Bam, we’re down 14-0,” Hinson said with a groan. “Obviously, we didn’t get the kind of start we needed.”

It snowballed from there. Moore threw two TD passes to Themus Fulks, the basketball phenom, and Fulks tossed one to Moore on a trick play. Moore also threw his second TD to Perrell.

“Fulks is a special playmaker,” Flynn said.

By halftime, Moore had put 230 yards and four passing TDs in the books, and the Black Knights had blown out the Hornets, 42-0.

“We knew Salisbury had played Ledford very tough,” Fulks said. “We expected a closer game, but this was a night we played very well. We took care of business.”

Salisbury had just two first downs in the first half, and North Davidson monster Blake Stephens sacked Salisbury QB Mike McLean on a fourth-down play after a long kickoff return by Tyrone Johnson gave  the Hornets a chance to penetrate North Davidson’s side of the 50. The first half could not have been any more one-sided.

“We should’ve done better, but we made a lot of mistakes,” Johnson said. “North Davidson is good. In some ways they’re better than Ledford, but not others.”

The clock ran continuously as the second half got under way. North Davidson pounded straight ahead on a long drive that featured reserve back Andres Sanchez. Moore finished the drive with a sneak on fourth-and-1 on the final play of the third quarter, and it was 49-0.

That’s when Hinson implored his team not to quit. The Hornets didn’t.

As the fourth quarter started, Cameron Gill settled under the kickoff at his 2-yard line, zig-zagged his way to the Salisbury sideline and accelerated for a 98-yard score, his seventh big-play TD of the season. Those  were the first points scored against North Davidson since Sept. 14.

“Too little,  too late, but that gives you an idea of what Salisbury’s athletes can do if they get the ball in space,” Flynn said. “We talked all week about how fast their returners are and how fast their quarterback is. It’s hard to simulate Salisbury’s speed in practice. You just have to  limit their opportunities to use it.”

Salisbury got its second touchdown as the clock neared the minute mark. McLean got this one on a 5-yard run to the left corner. He moved the Hornets into scoring position with a 50-yard strike to Johnson and a sharp toss to Gill.

“I know that second TD was against North Davidson’s backups, but it was still good for us to put it in the end zone,” Hinson said. “You ask your kids to fight to the end, and we did.”

In North Davidson’s postgame huddle, Flynn told his team how much he appreciated how they focused on the task at hand like a great team does, without looking ahead to Ledford.

But now the Black Knights can finally talk about Ledford and think about Ledford. That clash of titans  to decide the CCC title will coincide with North Davidson’s Senior Night next Friday in Welcome.


NOTES: Defensive standouts for Salisbury included Kameon Alford, Kevin Hayes and Zae Clay. Alford forced a fumble, but North Davidson was able to recover. … Johnson took a tremendous hit in the backfield after he caught a swing pass. The 5-5, 146-pound sprinter was down for several minutes and had to be helped from the field, but he’s tough. He came back to make that 50-yard reception.