High school football: Round 2 separates contenders from pretenders

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 11, 2021

By Mike London

SALISBURY — Early this season, West Rowan head coach Louis Kraft predicted West, Salisbury and North Rowan would play well into November, and he hasn’t been proven wrong yet.

Of course, he hasn’t proven right yet, either.

The second round always separates contenders from pretenders. Round 2 is coming up on Friday. West, Salisbury and North will be part of it.

West and North face major challenges and will be underdogs on the road, but they’ve both got a reasonable chance to keep it going.

Salisbury is at home. A 10-1 team will provide the opposition, but it’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t think the Hornets will roll again.

Crest, a perennial power, and West, which has been good or great for two decades now, have tangled four times in the playoffs, with two wins apiece.

The Hornets and Cavaliers will be taking on foes they’ve never faced.

All games at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted.


West Rowan (7-3) at Crest (8-2)

Seeded 20th in the 3A West bracket, the Falcons have a hard-earned overtime road playoff win under their belts, and now they’ll take on the team that ended Carson’s season last week.

For what it’s worth, Carson hung in the game with the fourth-seeded Chargers a lot longer than it did with West Rowan.

Carson had substantial rushing yards but completed only one pass against Crest, so West will provide a different sort of opponent with its balanced offense.

While Noah Loeblein has 24 touchdowns passes, the Falcons’ most amazing statistical guy is running back Akin Robinson who has 1,123 rushing yards on just 111 carries. That’s 10.1 yards per carry. Cayleb Brawley has provided nearly 600 rushing yards. Peter Williams-Simpson and Garrett Fesperman have combined for 80 catches, nearly 1,600 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Crest’s most dangerous athlete appears to be quarterback Nytavius Huskey, who broke at least four explosive runs against Carson and also threw a touchdown pass

West gave up 265 rushing yards to North Lincoln’s QB last week, so Huskey’s legs are a major concern. Crest also got a huge game out of Carter Greene last week. He’s fast and he can run it or catch it.

Extreme speed is Crest’s biggest asset. Carson coach Daniel Crosby said they’re the fastest team he’s seen in some time.

Crest’s two losses were to Cleveland County neighbors Shelby and Burns.

West Rowan topped Crest 35-30 in an epic second-round game in 2019. Loeblein and Brawley were part of that one. Loeblein had a rushing TD and a passing TD, although West’s effort that night was sparked by Jalen Houston, a great player who had his greatest game with 35 carries for 278 yards and three TDs.

West also beat Crest in the 2016 playoffs, but the Falcons lost to the Chargers in playoff games in 2002 and 2014.

The Massey Ratings give the Falcons a 25 percent win probability for this latest West-Crest collision. Crest is favored by two touchdowns.


North Rowan (7-3) at Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy (7-3)

Rowan County football fans were first exposed to Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy last season when East Rowan picked up TJCA as a COVID replacement, made the trip to the Caroleen/Mooresboro area of Rutherford County and lost 21-6.

The TJCA Gryphons have faced some heat this season, as they played in a split 1A/2A league that includes 2A beasts Shelby and Burns. Shelby demolished TJCA 55-7, while Burns crushed the Gryphons 64-7. But other than that, they’ve been pretty solid. They were the best 1A team in their league, which led to a lofty No. 5 seed for the 1A West playoffs. North is the No. 12 seed.

The Gryphons have at least two exceptional players.

Dakota Tilley, a 6-foot-5 receiver/DB/kick returner was rated as one of the state’s top 10 juniors and now is one of the elite seniors. He has been recruited by a lot of people, turning down offers from suitors such as UNC, N.C. State and Georgia Tech and committing to Virginia. He caught two TD passes last week in a 39-7 win against Avery County, and he’ll be the obvious focal point for North’s defense.

Quarterback Bryce Jergenson has thrown for 1,419 yards and run for 769. He’s accounted for 24 touchdowns. He had a terrific game last week against Avery, throwing for two TDs and running for three. He had 171 passing yards and 154 rushing yards.

North destroyed Bessemer City, one of the weaker teams in TJCA’s league last week. The Cavs romped 62-0. TJCA won 42-0 against Bessemer City.

The Cavaliers have gotten huge seasons from back Jae’mias Morrow (1,103 rushing yards, 18 TDs), freshman QB Jeremiah Alford, who has accounted for 29 touchdowns, and junior receiver Amari McArthur, who has 46 catches for 1,050 yards and 13 touchdowns. The 1,050 receiving yards are a school record for a season.


Bunker Hill (10-1) at Salisbury (10-0), 7:30 p.m.

Bunker Hill is located near the the town of Claremont, about 15 miles east of Hickory.

The Bears, seeded 11th in he 2A West bracket, have put together a stellar season, but the one blemish on that season — a 62-13 wipeout by Maiden in mid-October — indicates Bunker Hill isn’t likely to hang with the powerful, sixth-seeded Hornets.

The Massey Ratings give Salisbury a four-TD edge and a 96 percent win probability.

Bunker Hill turned in a 21-7 victory in the first round of the playoffs against an East Davidson team that Salisbury smashed 49-0.

Quarterback Carson Elder was good for Bunker Hill in the first round of the playoffs. He threw for 189 yards and two touchdowns. Led by Kaden Robinson, the Bears added 133 yards on the ground.

But Salisbury brings enormous pressure on opposing quarterbacks and there’s usually nowhere to run — except backwards.

Bunker Hill’s defense won the turnover battle last week 4-0. That went a long way toward knocking out East Davidson.

Salisbury’s historic season continued last week with three more touchdowns on defense and special teams. Salisbury has amassed 16 touchdowns on kick returns, blocked punts, interception returns and fumble returns.

Throw in the 35 touchdowns that quarterback Mike Geter has accounted for and the 19 that JyMikaah Wells has run for, and it’s been an overwhelming squad. Salisbury has scored 567 points, while allowing 33.

In the 49-6 win against North Forsyth last week, the Hornets enjoyed their ninth running-clock romp. North Forsyth scored on the last play of the game.

The Hornets completed only one pass in six tries last week and had too many penalties, so while they’re really physical and explosive, they’re still looking for perfection.

Things are expected to get very serious for Salisbury next week. A road trip to unbeaten No. 3 seed Maiden looms for the Hornets.

Maiden will be taking on conference rival West Lincoln for the second time on Friday. Maiden won 20-14 at West Lincoln (9-2) early in the season.

Bunker Hill beat West Lincoln 15-7. That probably was Bunker Hill’s best win.