High school football previews: Shaw always rooting for the story

Published 12:01 am Thursday, September 22, 2022

SALISBURY — World-class stringer Dave Shaw still covers a high school football game for the Post every Friday, just as he has most fall weekends since the mid-1990s.

For Dave, a southpaw from New York, every game is the Super Bowl.

He gives it his all, applies maximum effort to his craft. That’s true whether the final score is 41-0 or 41-40.

Speedy backs don’t just carry the ball when Dave is in the house, they run “like they’ve been dipped in grease.”

Linebackers don’t just tackle people, they are “state troopers in shoulder pads” or “German shepherds in cleats.”

If Dave is covering your game, you might get excitable references to Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles and Secretariat — all in one 900-word story.

But even David’s boundless enthusiasm was running on empty last week. He usually covers the Rowan vs. Rowan match-ups, and there have been some snoozers.

Dave received the Carson at West Rowan assignment by text last Wednesday.

He accepted it glumly because the Falcons were favored by 27 by the Massey Ratings, and they  normally know what they’re talking about. One week earlier, they’d hit the West Rowan-North Rowan game right on the nose with their prediction.

“You know,” Dave texted back, “I haven’t seen a close game all season.”

Famous last words.

What we know now that we didn’t know then is that Carson is pretty good.

West Rowan, South Rowan, East Rowan, North Rowan and Salisbury have been engaged in constant county tussles since this season began, so we have a pretty good handle on those five teams. West, North and Salisbury are good. They have their flaws, but they are well above average squads that will be tough outs in the playoffs in their respective classifications.

East and South have some talent, but they haven’t put it together yet. They’re still searching.

But Carson was something of a mystery.

The Cougars had gone their own way since scrimmaging with North Rowan in the Rowan County Jamboree. Carson had played zero county games before Friday’s trip to West Rowan. The Cougars’ early schedule was Statesville, Mount Pleasant, South Stanly and Robinson.

So we knew far less about the Cougars then we did everyone else. Photographers working for the Post are usually at county games, where they can shoot two Rowan teams at one site, so we hadn’t photographed Carson. Nor had we covered the Cougars in person. I watched them play Mount Pleasant on a computer screen. I’ve had some nice conversations with new coach Jonathan Lowe.  All I knew was they were 1-3 and they’d lost to some good teams.

Jump ahead to last Friday night. Dave’s first text from Mount Ulla was “Carson 21, West Rowan 10 … not a misprint.”

WSAT radio had been faithful followers of the Falcons since they had mashed Salisbury on opening night. They had traveled with West to Davie and to Mooresville and they’d broadcast the exciting West-North game. But they’d said no thanks to Carson-West. That one looked like a probable blowout and they like to keep their listeners glued to the radio for four quarters. They’d opted to air the Salisbury at Thomasville game, which, on paper, was the night’s marquee matchup.

As JyMikaah Wells ran wild and the SHS Hornets began pulling away from the T-ville Bulldogs in the third quarter, WSAT color man Glenn Taylor sighed with regret with each Carson-West update he received. “Carson 31, West 23, fourth quarter,” he moaned. “We’ve got a pretty good game here, but sounds like they’ve got a better one in Mount Ulla.”

Indeed they did. West finally tied it with a touchdown and a 2-point conversion. Then the Falcons pulled it out 34-31 with a late field goal. They escaped.

Dave loved every minute of it. He could care less who won. He always roots for the story. And this was quite a story.

Carson lost, but provided valuable lessons. This was a reminder that there aren’t any sure things with teenagers, regardless of what the rankings or ratings say.

You had an underdog team feeling overlooked and they went into it fired up. You had a favored team feeling overconfident and coming in a little flat.

The result was an instant classic.

“We avoided doomsday,” West head coach Louis Kraft said via text. “The Cougars — that’s a good club.”

Carson is off this week (the Cougars go to Concord on Sept. 30), so what’s the big game this Friday?

It certainly looks like it will be in Spencer. Thomasville at North Rowan. Two 1A teams with one loss and ranked in the top 10.

I like the Cavaliers. I have to admit I’m hoping Jameias Morrow runs like he’s dipped in grease and I’m hoping Bryson Crisco will be a state trooper in shoulder pads and that Khalil Davis will be a German shepherd in cleats.

Dave Shaw will be there, and he’ll be fine with whatever the final score is, as long as it’s an entertaining, tight game.

As always, he’ll be rooting for the story.

Thomasville (3-1, 0-1) at North Rowan (4-1, 1-0), 7:30 p.m.

North is a very slight favorite in the Central Carolina Conference showdown. This looks a down-to-the-wire game.

North receiver Amari McAthur had his biggest game of the season in the 40-6 win against South Davidson last week.

“The General” now holds five school receiving records — career yards (1,991), career TD catches (24), TD catches in a season (16, 2021), receiving yards in a season (1,191, 2021) and receiving yards in a game (273 vs. North Stanly, 2021).

Thomasville destroyed the Cavaliers 59-18 last fall at Cushwa Stadium, but North is optimistic that an improved defense and home-field advantage will swing things the Cavaliers’ way this time. Jaemias Morrow scooted for 240 yards last week and should be a challenge for Thomasville to contain.

Morrow has 58 carries for 712 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also has six 2-point conversions.

Thomasville runs it well, but doesn’t throw it much.

Forty years ago, North made an incredible comeback to beat Thomasville and secure the school’s first undefeated regular season. Hall of Fame coach Larry Thomason said that was his most memorable win at the helm of the Cavaliers.

Thomasville leads the series 15-9. North’s most recent win against the Bulldogs was in 2016.

West Davidson (2-2, 0-0) at Salisbury (4-1, 1-0), 7:30 p.m.

In the WSAT radio game, the Green Dragons are owners of two wins but their two lopsided losses (57-7 and 67-0) indicate they shouldn’t be able to deal with Salisbury.

The Hornets are favored by 40 in the Central Carolina Conference contest.

Salisbury has a powerful running game. JyMikaah Wells basically missed two games with an injury, but has 62 carries for 586 yards and three scores. Jamal Rule has 57 carries for 497 yards and three TDs. Mike Geter has accounted for 15 touchdowns, nine rushing and six passing. Deuce Walker has produced 225 yards and three TDs with 11 catches.

The Hornets lead the series 16-4, including a 69-6 rout in 2021.

West Rowan (4-1, 1-0) at South Rowan (1-4, 0-1), 7 p.m.

Coming off a near disaster against Carson, the Falcons should be focused and ready for South Piedmont Conference opponent South Rowan.

West is a 35-point favorite. The biggest threat the Raiders present is Bronson Hunt, who has tremendous speed. Hunt had 13 carries for 136 yards in last week’s 67-6 loss to Northwest Cabarrus and he might line up at quarterback, receiver or kick returner.

Landon Richards has rushed for 244 yards for the Raiders. Alex Furr has 12 receptions.

West began the season in aerial mode, but has gradually switched more to the ground in recent weeks to take advantage of a strong offensive line.

Evan Kennedy has been spectacular, with 383 rushing yards, 404 receiving yards and a kickoff return TD.

Luke Graham has 1,037 passing yards. Adrian Stockton has 20 catches for 407 yards and three TDs.

West leads the series 26-21-1.

West won 55-16 in 2021. South hasn’t beaten the Falcons since the Raiders took an overtime thriller in 2000.

NW Cabarrus (4-1, 1-0) at East Rowan (0-5, 0-1), 7 p.m.

East’s first win will happen, but it’s not likely to occur this week. Northwest is favored by three touchdowns in the SPC contest.

Northwest Cabarrus is coming off an incredible 41-point second quarter and a 60-point first half in a romp against South Rowan.

The Trojans use a hurry-up, no-huddle offense to keep defenses reeling, and they’ve got some talent at the skill positions.

Former Catawba receiver Eric Morman guides the Trojans. He’ll be coaching against former Catawba defensive coordinator John Fitz.

East has improved offensively from 2021, but turnovers have been deadly, and Northwest intercepted three passes last week.

Northwest leads the all-time series 20-17 and won 33-7 in 2021. East’s most recent victory in the series was 8-0 in 2016.

Davie (2-2, 1-0) at East Forsyth (4-0, 1-0), 7:30 p.m.

Davie (2-2, 1-0) travels to Kernersville to face one of the state’s best teams.

Davie should put up a few touchdowns, but East Forsyth is a 28-point favorite.

East Forsyth crushed the War Eagles 59-21 in 2021.

A.L. Brown (3-1, 0-1) at Lake Norman (4-0, 0-0), 7:30 p.m.

The Wonders went toe-to-toe with Hickory Ridge for three quarters but ran out of gas in last week’s 45-24 setback.

Lake Norman has had two weeks to prepare and is stout, especially on the defensive side. The Wildcats have allowed only 21 points.

The Wonders lead the series 3-1.

Lake Norman took a 14-13 victory over the Wonders in 2021 to break through in the all-time series.