High school football: McArthur breaking records at North
By Mike London
SPENCER — Last Friday, North Rowan junior receiver Amari McArthur broke a school receiving yards record that had stood for 22 years.
That’s a long time.
So is 20 years. That’s how long it’s been since North Rowan beat West Rowan, tonight’s opponent, on a football field.
North head coach Nygel Pearson is only in his second season in Spencer, so he was stunned when he learned of West’s two-decade dominance of the Cavaliers.
“Wow, 20 years since we beat them,” Pearson said. “I’ve started to realize how important the county games are to the kids and to the fans. You lose to someone down east, and nobody cares, but you lose in the county, and everybody knows about it.”
That 2001 season had begun inauspiciously for the Cavaliers with a blowout, turnover-filled loss to South Rowan, but the Cavaliers had stunned A.L. Brown on the road in Week 2 and carried momentum into a 26-14 home win against a West Rowan team that had Ben Hampton running the ball and Scott Young coaching. West Rowan wouldn’t lose another game to a Rowan County opponent until the Falcons were stopped inches short of the goal line in Granite Quarry in 2012.
The key individual for North Rowan in the 2001 victory over West was an elusive quarterback named Alfonzo Miller, who ran for two touchdowns and threw for two more.
Miller, one of the most amazing athletes in county history, was a pass-catcher before coach Roger Secreast switched him to quarterback, and Miller actually owned North’s record for receiving yards in a game — before McArthur’s huge night.
Miller set his mark in 1999 when he was on the receiving end of passes fired by another legend of North football — Mario Sturdivant. Those were the Friday nights of “The Airport” at Eagle Stadium, and Miller had seven catches for 214 yards and four touchdowns in a wild 41-35 overtime win against East Davidson.
Miller had broken a school record that lasted 27 years. In 1972, Melvin Dixon had reeled in 213 yards in receptions in a 40-33 loss to Mooresville.
McArthur, the reigning county track and field champion at 100 meters, served notice that he might be coming after records late in his sophomore season when he amassed 170 receiving yards in the second-round playoff loss to Polk County.
“He can out-run you, he can jump over you and he can make you miss,” Pearson said. “When a receiver can do all three of those things, he’s a dangerous man.”
Dangerous could be McArthur’s middle name. He shattered records in last week’s 36-32 win at North Stanly. Officially, he had 273 receiving yards on just five catches to break not only the school record, but the county record (Seth Wyrick, East, 264 yards vs. Freedom, 2014). McArthur had four huge pass plays of 76, 80, 65 and 51 yards.
“I didn’t know anything about breaking records until my friends told me about it,” McArthur said. “But it does make you feel like you’re on top of the world. The best part was that we won the game. North Stanly shut us out last season, so this means we’re ahead of where we were last season.”
North has a freshman quarterback who is getting the ball to McArthur.
Jeremiah Alford became a part of county lore in only his second start.
“That’s a 14-year-old kid and sometimes he plays like he’s 14,” Pearson said. “But there are other times when he plays like he’s 17 or 18. He’s doing a great job for us and he’s got a nice safety net with Amari because he knows Amari can turn that 5-yard route into a 60-yard touchdown at any time. There was a play on Friday where Amari broke three or four tackles.”
North Rowan (2-0) trailed 8-0 and was facing third-and-10 at its 18-yard line when Alford and McArthur hooked up for a 76-yard gain on what might have been the night’s biggest play. McArthur didn’t take that one all the way, but he got the ball to the North Stanly 6. Alford put it in the end zone on the ground on the next play.
The 80-yarder connection was the first of McArthur’s three touchdowns and put the Cavaliers ahead 12-8 in the second quarter. The 51-yard TD in the third quarter gave North Rowan a 28-16 lead. McArthur’s third touchdown was the 65-yarder that put North Rowan ahead 36-24 early in the fourth quarter. That one proved decisive.
“I made some plays on short passes, but I also caught some good balls thrown downfield,” McArthur said. “I beat double coverage on one of them.”
In two games, McArthur has nine catches for 363 yards and four TDs. He leads the county in receiving yards.
McArthur, who also stars in basketball as well as track and field for the Cavaliers, had 29 catches for 535 yards and five TDs in North’s eight-game spring season.
The difference in this year’s McArthur and the one who was just starting to break out last spring?
“Consistency,” McArthur said. “That’s what I’m working for.”
West Rowan may be 0-2, but it’s still West Rowan, so most of the county’s attention will be focused on what happens in Spencer tonight.
“West Rowan is very big upfront, so it’s going to be a tough one for us, a big challenge for our kids,” Pearson said. “But we’re not afraid of going out and playing the 3As. We may be 1A, but we didn’t schedule any 1A non-conference opponents. We may take some lumps along the way, but we’re excited about playing in big games like this and they’ll get us ready for conference.”
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