West Rowan surprises with big win over Davie County
Published 12:21 am Saturday, September 14, 2019
By Brian Pitts
For the Salisbury Post
MOUNT ULLA — A week ago, West Rowan was doomed by five turnovers in a frustrating home loss to Cox Mill.
Friday night against visiting Davie County, the Falcons watched the War Eagles suffer turnover heartache in a validating 24-21 win for West.
“That (win) was big for our team,” West coach Joe Nixon said. “We talked about keep trusting. There were a lot of doubters. We play a tough schedule for a reason. Davie is a phenomenal team, but I knew what I had in my locker room. I knew if they played well, we had a shot.”
The War Eagles (3-1), who used three nail-biting wins for their best start in 13 years, had visions of more magic when they erased West’s 21-7 lead and forced a tie with four minutes left in the third quarter. But their latest second-half rally did not bear fruit.
“The little things that we’ve gotten away with, we weren’t able to overcome tonight,” Davie coach Tim Devericks said. “Ill-timed penalties, special teams penalties, turnovers. It finally caught up with us tonight.”
The Falcons (2-2) got a defensive gem from Chaz McCombs, interceptions from Baiden Suddarth and Reggie Everhart and 183 rushing yards from the Jalen Houston/Michael Gonsalves combination to beat Davie for the second year in a row.
Quarterback Noah Loeblein only attempted seven passes as West coach Joe Nixon went straight smash-mouth, but two of his three completions produced spectacular moments.
Davie opened the scoring in impressive style, driving 98 yards in 12 plays. The key play was quarterback Nate Hampton’s 46-yard pass to Jack Reynolds, who used a post route to move the ball to the West 1-yard line. Running back Josh Robinson scored on the next play, giving Davie a 7-0 lead.
West had a huge answer, marching 80 yards on 15 plays. The drive featured 14 bullish runs and one pass, a 15-yard completion to Quay Weeks on the first play of the second quarter, as Loeblein’s first pass attempt of the night converted a third-and-10.
Then Gonsalves scored his first of three TDs as West tied it at 7-7.
McCombs’ big play came moments later. He raked Hampton’s arm and recovered the fumble at midfield.
“We’ve been waiting for Chaz to show up this year, and that was a huge play,” Nixon said.
West did not cash in, but Suddarth intercepted an over-the-middle pass intended for Robinson, returning it 10 yards to the Davie 13. Five Gonsalves runs later, West had 14-7 halftime lead.
“Normally, we leave two ‘backers in the box, but I wanted to force them to run the ball,” Nixon said, of his defense. “I thought it would be tough for them to run against our front and linebackers, so Baiden’s job was to stay in the middle and read the quarterback. He made a heck of a play.”
On the second play of the second half, Loeblein went long to Houston, who hauled in a 66-yard reception to the Davie 1-yard line. Nixon didn’t ask his sophomore QB to throw much, but he will take a 39-yards-per-completion average any day. Gonsalves punched it in two plays later to lift West to the 21-7 advantage.
But after West scored 21 unanswered points in a span of 11:48, Hampton and the War Eagles erased that damage in a hurry. Hampton went 7-of-8 during an 11-play, 75-yard drive, shaking off a second-and-26 dilemma and tossing 41-yard TD pass to Tate Carney on third down.
After West’s offense went three-and-out, Carney dominated a 58-yard drive, gaining 20 yards on a running play, converting a third-and-5 with a six-yard run and turning a wheel route into a 17-yard TD reception.
Davie had two touchdowns in just over three minutes and it was 21-21 with 4:04 left in the third quarter.
The Falcons’ offense then rose to the occasion by mounting a 15-play, 82-yard drive. Ty’Kese Warren went high to grab a 36-yard pass at the Davie 39. Houston, who played a big role in the backfield, escaped trouble well behind the line and scampered 29 yards — with a late-hit penalty tacked on. West bogged down at the Davie 3-yard line, but it got the decisive points on Fredrico Cruz’s 19-yard field goal with 8:54 to play.
Davie’s Jack Reynolds returned a punt 20 yards to the West 44, but the Falcons denied a first down. Davie’s Kristian Lyons intercepted Loeblein at midfield and returned it to the West 43, but West’s lone turnover didn’t hurt because Everhart made his big play on fourth-and-7 from the West 26. Hampton couldn’t find anyone open and had to get rid of it. Everhart picked off the pass at the 5-yard line. Four Houston runs and two first downs later, the game was over.
“Reggie’s been a three-year starter for us,” Nixon said. “I challenged him at halftime because he hasn’t had a pick yet, and he did a great job reading eyes and making a play on the ball to seal it for us.”
West picked up 17 first downs by pounding out four yards at a time. Houston rushed for 108 yards, including 90 in the second half. Gonsalves powered for 75 yards.
“Our o-line did a great job, controlling things,” Nixon said. “Our game plan was to keep their offense off the field, and our guys did a great job of that.”
Carney, who was sidelined for Davie’s last three possessions with an injury, finished with team highs in rushing yards (66) and receiving yards (94). Robinson added 50 rushing yards and 52 receiving yards.
Hampton went 18-of-30 for 210 yards, but that was 201 fewer than he put up last week — as well as half as many TD passes (two) as he threw against North Davidson and Mooresville.
“We stuck to the game plan on offense, which is run the ball, run the ball and pick and choose our shots.” added Nixon. “I’m so proud of my coaches and so proud of my players for executing the game plan. Just a great win for our kids.”
Davie gained 18 first downs, 330 yards and went 7-of-12 on third downs. But it was undermined by mistakes (100 yards in penalties, three turnovers).
“I think we’ll respond positively,” Devericks said. “I can see in their eyes that they don’t like this taste. They had too much of it (last year) and they don’t like this taste.”