Spirit of Rowan 2022: West Rowan’s football dynasty

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 27, 2022

By Mike London

MOUNT ULLA — In 1997, after nearly 40 years of football, West Rowan owned the least tradition of any of Rowan County’s schools.

Salisbury, North Rowan, South Rowan and East Rowan had celebrated championships and produced legendary teams, but things had been relatively quiet in Mount Ulla.

West had enjoyed a few good teams and a few exciting teams, but no great ones. There had been 147 wins, 240 losses, 12 ties — and zero conference championships.

West principal Henry Kluttz set out to change that pattern. He hired a former East Rowan lineman who was employed as a Davie County assistant.

The new head coach’s name was Scott Young.

Young’s first season at West Rowan was 1998. Young was quite young, only 26, when that season got under way. He was still learning. West went 3-8.

But the culture began to change by 1999. Young was building a winning staff and a winning program. West started strong and finished 8-3.

Young’s third season, 2000, brought that long-awaited first conference championship for the men in light blue and their patient fans. It was achieved in the hardest way possible, by prevailing on back-to-back weeks in fierce games against the perennial neighborhood bullies — A.L. Brown and Concord.

In 2001, West began a streak of winning against county opponents that would roll on and on and on.

In 2005, the Falcons put together an undefeated regular season, but an extended run in the state playoffs remained elusive.

In 2008, the Falcons started out 1-1, but that’s when West discovered the perfect storm of junior running back K.P. Parks, sophomore quarterback B.J. Sherrill and a stellar defense that included future NFL player Chris Smith.

That’s the season the Falcons cleared that third-round hurdle.

Trailing Carver 16-7 at home with the final minute ticking away in the third quarter, West struck suddenly for a 60-yard touchdown on a pass thrown by receiver Jon Crucitti to Brantley Horton. That was a future West Pointer and a future Naval Academy man teaming up. West would win —  the most important victory the program ever had on its home field— on a 50-yard run on a faked punt by defensive back Austin Greenwood.

That inspiring rally would galvanize the fan base as never before. The Falcons would roll on to their first 3A state championship in 2008.

West would evolve into a true dynasty. The Falcons would win the 3A state championship again in 2009 with a perfect 16-0 season. Parks put up astounding numbers and broke state records.

Parks would rush for 10,915 yards in his four-year career and score 158 touchdowns. As a senior, he amassed 3,794 rushing yards and scored an incredible 59 TDs.

Then the Falcons went 16-0 again and won 3A again in 2010, even without Parks.

At that point, the Falcons had won 46 straight and accurately could boast that they owned the nation’s longest active winning streak.

In 2011, with all the legends gone, the winning streak ended on opening night, but it was still a program filled with the belief that it would win every Friday. On sheer will, those Falcons (13-3) made it back to the state championship game and finished as 3A runner-up.

West’s famed county winning streak lasted for 11 years. It ended in dramatic fashion in 2012 at East Rowan, 13-7, with the Mustangs making a game-saving tackle on their 1-yard line on the final play.

A bit of magic slowly ebbed from West’s program after that loss and some of the mystique was shattered, although steady winning continued and playoff appearances were automatic.

When health issues forced Young to step aside following the 2014 season, he did so with a 172-54 record, three state titles and nine conference championships.

He had led the transformation of West into a winning program. When he finished, West was 292-201-12.

Young died on a November morning in 2017. He was 46.

The night he died the football stadium lights stirred to life and illuminated the night sky not just at West, but at every high school in the county at exactly 7:30 p.m. — kickoff time —  because Young had raised the bar for all of them.