High school football: Led by Kennedy, Falcons wear down Cavaliers, 42-28
Published 11:16 pm Friday, September 9, 2022
By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA — North Rowan is for real, but the West Rowan Falcons still beat the Cavaliers 42-28 on Friday in a festival of flags and big plays.
West’s Evan Kennedy returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Not to be outdone, North’s Jameias Morrow was going, going gone after he scooped up a West squib kickoff that squibbed too far to open the second half.
“There were some huge plays and there were some hits out there tonight that everyone in the crowd felt,” West head coach Louis Kraft said. “Good game and good crowd. North came here to play, and they’re a strong team with a bulldog (Jeremiah Alford) for a quarterback. They’re going to be a very tough out in the 1A playoffs.”
The 3A Falcons took their 13th straight decision against the Cavaliers, who haven’t beaten them since 2001 when legend Alfonzo Miller was running the show.
It was a savagely fought non-conference game until West’s depth finally made the difference. North (3-1) tired in the third quarter. That’s when West (3-1) scored three straight TDs to turn 14-all into 35-14.
Playing at home for the first time, the Falcons bounced back strong from the disappointment of losing at Mooresville last week.
“We took control of the line of scrimmage in the third quarter — the way I thought we could and thought we would,” Kraft said. “No question that we wore them down, but it’s not like North’s guys ever cowered down. They played hard. They didn’t stop fighting us.”
North fans talked confidently all week and a reasonable percentage of the population of Rowan County believed that this was the year the Cavs finally beat the Falcons.
West definitely was favored, but the Falcons were without their workhorse running back Landon Jacobs. He hurt an ankle on the last play of the Mooresville game. The bullish back’s absence had an impact on West’s offense. The Falcons shifted elusive receiver Kennedy, who had a school-record 227 receiving yards on seven catches against Davie, to a full-time role in the backfield to replace Jacobs.
Kennedy carried it 32 times, a heavy load, a K.P. Parks sort of load, for 154 yards.
Kennedy scored three rushing touchdowns to go along with his kickoff return. He nearly scored five TDs on the ground, but he fumbled twice inside the North 5-yard line.
“He was just excited and got a little frustrated and it took a while to calm him down a little bit,” Kraft said. “He hasn’t been the featured running back since middle school, but he did a great job.”
North was able to pounce on one of Kennedy’s fumbles near the goal line. Kennedy’s teammate, tackle Christian Hercules, jumped on the other one for a key third-quarter touchdown for the Falcons.
Kennedy’s’ electric kickoff return and his 4-yard scoring run put West up 14-0.
North got on the scoreboard on the (untimed) final snap of the first quarter — Alford to Morrow wheeling out the backfield for a 23-yard TD — but the PAT was blocked.
West was able to get to halftime with a 14-6 advantage after two quarters in which North had every chance to move in front.
After pushing into the red zone, the Cavaliers threw incomplete into the West end zone to close the first half.
West survived four first-half turnovers — including an accident on a punt return — that could have been disastrous.
“At halftime, I was kind of mad about all the turnovers, although one of the two interceptions we threw was on me,” Kraft said. “We kind of made a decision that we were just going to pound the rock in the second half.”
That was the plan, but then the game became tied 15 seconds into the second half on Morrow’s 83-yard return and Alford’s 2-point conversion pass to Xavier Suber.
“Mooresville ran back the second-half kickoff against us last week, and that was the turning point in the game,” Kraft said. “This time we responded a lot better, offensively and defensively.”
West’s first possession after Morrow’s potential game-turning score was critical. The Falcons moved the ball efficiently with a hurry-up offense. The blocks were there. The holes were there.
Kennedy scored from the 12 with 7:46 left in the third quarter, and at 21-14, the Falcons surged back in front for good.
West’s linemen took over at that point. Two more stops and two more West touchdowns. By the end of the third quarter, it was 35-14.
The Cavaliers still had some fight left, and Morrow proved it by busting loose for a make-everyone-miss adventure that covered 80 yards. Alford’s 2-point run made it 35-22 with 11:47 left to play.
West’s answer was to roll for five minutes, with Kayvone Norman doing the ball-carrying and finishing a drive from the 1-yard line. That sealed it at 42-22.
North tacked on another touchdown with 1:32 left to play on Alford’s 19-yard pass to Suber.
“It all felt kind of sloppy, there were way too many flags, and I don’t think either team ever found much of a rhythm,” Kraft said. “But it was exciting and it was definitely hard-fought.”
NOTES: Both teams start conference play on Sept. 16. West will take on Carson at home, while North goes to South Davidson. … Naz Stinson and Khalil Davis had first-half interceptions for the Cavaliers. … Hunter Miller blocked a punt for West, while Kevin Toomer had several disruptive plays in the North backfield… West’s defense held Amari McArthur to two catches for short gains. … Jacobs is expected to be back next week. … Alfonzo Miller’s career — split between receiver and quarterback — was unique in Rowan County. He had 3,475 passing yards, 1,809 receiving yards and 1,757 rushing yards. … West’s Adrian Stockton caught five passes from Luke Graham for 59 yards, including one that set up Kennedy’s first TD, while Paxton Greene kept a drive alive with a key, third-down catch.
North 6 0 8 14 — 28
West 14 0 21 7 — 42
W — Kennedy 90 kickoff return (Arteaga kick)
W — Kennedy 4 run (Arteaga kick)
N — Morrow 23 pass from Alford (kick blocked)
N — Morrow 83 kickoff return (Suber pass from Alford)
W — Kennedy 12 run (Arteaga kick)
W — Hercules fumble recovery in end zone (Arteaga kick)
W — Kennedy 1 run (Arteaga kick)
N — Morrow 80 run (Alford run)
W — Norman 1 run (Arteaga kick)
N — Suber 10 pass from Alford (run failed)
North: Morrow 10-125; Alford 8-80; K. Miller 5-12; Stinson 1-6.
West: Kennedy 32-154; Norman 9-42
North: Alford 8-24-0, 82
West: Graham 10-17-2, 101
North: Morrow 3-27; O’Kelly 2-27; Suber 1-19; McArthur 2-9
West: Stockton 5-59; Greene 2-21; Poole 2-17; Kepley 1-4