North rallies past South in overtime thriller
Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 29, 2021
By David Shaw
For the Salisbury Post
SPENCER — North Rowan had to duck a few punches in Friday’s season-opener against South Rowan but emerged unblemished.
The host Cavaliers erased a pair of double-digit deficits and scored on their first overtime possession, prevailing in a 36-28 test-of-nerves.
“We’ve got some tough kids who played their tails off,” second-year North coach Nygel Pearson said. “We’re down some numbers, but I’d take these dudes and play anywhere in the country. We feel that good.”
Allow the Cavs a moment to shine. They appeared out of sync for most of the first half, then fell behind 28-14 when South’s Bronson Hunt returned the second-half kickoff 78 yards for a touchdown.
“First we came out pouting,” explained North’s Jae’mias Morrow, the sophomore who bulldozed 7 yards into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. “But in the second half, something changed. We picked up our pace and started going after it.”
South accumulated 321 yards of total offense, but squandered a chance to win the game in regulation when veteran kicker Alex Fike missed a 29-yard field goal attempt as time expired.
“We’re not thrilled,” first-year South coach Chris Walsh said after the Raiders squared their record at 1-1. “That’s a game we fought really hard for, for 48 minutes plus a little bit.”
Freshman quarterback Jermiah Alford held his own in his first varsity start for North. He completed nine of 26 passes for 155 yards and two TDs. He also gave the Cavs a 6-0 first-quarter lead when he scored on a 6-yard power sweep to the left side.
“Early on, he played like a freshman,” said Pearson, noting that Alford threw an ill-advised interception late in the opening quarter. “Then he kind of settled in and we talked him through some things that he’s comfortable doing. I think he’s gonna be a good one for us.”
He was at his best as the third period ticked to a close. On a desperate fourth-and-5 play, Alford scrambled out of the pocket and found receiver Kemon O’Kelly just beyond the line of scrimmage. O’Kelly shook off a couple of would-be tacklers, spun out of a scrum and raced 27 yards to the end zone, drawing North within 28-20. In the fourth quarter, Alford steered the Cavs 75 yards in 12 plays for the tying score — provided when Morrow (11 carries/157 yards) curled around the right side on an 8-yard touchdown run with 5:12 to go.
“Coach told us to just keep playing through it,” Morrow said. “We needed to get our heads back in the game and start playing 110 (percent). We felt confident. We may not have the team we had last year, but we can still roll.”
In overtime, North took over on the South 10-yard line and called Alford’s number for a 3-yard pickup on first down. On second, Morrow followed a couple of linemen into the end zone, then added a two-point conversion. South’s last charge up the hill ended when Hunt snagged a sideline pass from Klassett but was wrestled to the ground about 7 yards short.
“Don’t ever count us out,” said North wideout Amari McArthur, the junior who made a spectacular fingertip catch and scored on an 86-yard touchdown pass from Alford with 35.8 seconds remaining in the first half. “We’re a fighting team. I feel like our offense — and our defense — stood very tall tonight.”
“We had heart,” added defensive tackle Roland Frost, a 303-pound transfer from East Rowan. “North Rowan has had some great comebacks over the years. North never gives up.”
NOTES: Frost, a 6-foot-4 handful, had three sacks — including two in the fourth quarter. … North finished with 337 total yards. McArthur made four receptions for 90 yards. Teammate Kh’ron Miller recovered a fumble … South forced two more turnovers, giving it six in two games. Kameron Wallace picked off a pass and Trae Rucker recovered a fumble – just seconds after Jacob Trimnal went airborne and blocked a punt in the second quarter. … Covid-19 had a role in the game. North played without six starters and both its cheerleading squad and pep band were quarantined. … South hosts Robinson next Friday. North travels to North Stanly.
South Rowan 0 20 8 0 0 – 28
North Rowan 6 8 6 8 8 – 36
NR – Alford 6 run (kick failed), 9:51 1st
SR – Hunt 23 run (kick failed), 10:41 2nd
SR — Richards 1 run (Hunt run), 2:59 2nd
SR — Richards 8 run (run failed), 1:10 2nd
NR — McArthur 86 pass from Alford (McArthur pass from Alford), 0:36 2nd
SR — Hunt 78 kick return (Cuthbertson run), 11:46 3rd
NR — O’Kelley 27 pass from Alford (kick failed), 2:35 3rd
NR — Morrow 8 run (Alford run), 5:12 4th
NR — Morrow 7 run (Morrow run), overtime
First downs 14 11
Rushes-Yards 41-210 26-182
Passes 7-16-0 9-26-1
Passing yards 111 155
Penalties 11-80 12-82
Punts 4-33.8 3-34
Fumbles-Lost 5-1 2-1
Rushing — SR: Richards 15-76; Cuthbertson 11-75; Rucker 4-24; Hunt 1-23; Simms 2-15; Klassette 8-(minus 3). NR: Morrow 11-157; Alford 13-35; Miller 2-(minus 10).
Passing— SR: Klassette 7-16-0, 111. NR: Alford 9-26-1, 155.
Receiving— SR: Hunt 4-84; James 3-27. NR: McArthur 4-90; Alexander 3-21; O’Kelley 1-27; Cantres 1-17.