Saturday, September 3, 2011

Carolina Gridiron Game of the Week - Postgame Wrap-up

SALISBURY - A raucous student section shouting "Let's go Hornets!", undeterred by the rain and occasional lightning, cheered on their Salisbury football team against in-county rival West Rowan. It's not often that two defending state champions get a chance to meet up in a game, but it's even more rare for the two teams to be from the same county. Not even the weather could scare away the fans of both teams as the stands were full well before the planned 7:30 kickoff. The game was delayed thirty minutes due to lightning in the area, but the action on the field provided all the sparks as the 3A West Rowan Falcons defeated the 2A Salisbury Hornets 37-28 on Friday night.

The teams traded big defensive plays and fourth down stops throughout the entire first quarter. Although there was no scoring in the first quarter, the offenses were moving the ball, but neither team was able to take advantage of opportunities. The Salisbury defense lived up to their "Hornet" nickname by swarming all over every West Rowan ball carrier they faced during the first half.

Salisbury opened up the scoring in the game, taking advantage of a high snap on a West Rowan punt, and returning it for a touchdown. The resulting PAT made it 7-0 in favor of the home team.  West Rowan responded by driving down the field, ending with a touchdown run tying the score at 7-7.  Salisbury tried to answer offensively, and were even helped along by a pass interference call with 40 seconds left in the half, but they were unable to capitalize.

Coming out in the second half, both teams were in full defensive attack mode.  Neither defense seemed willing to give up any points as both offenses struggled.  Preseason All-Gridiron linebacker Kavari Hillie made a touchdown saving tackle to keep West Rowan out of the endzone and West Rowan settled for field goal with 7:44 left in the third quarter to take a 10-7 lead.

Salisbury immediately responded with a long run for a touchdown, retaking a 14-10 lead two minutes later.  West Rowan took the kickoff and began to drive down the field with runs by preseason All-Gridiron running back Dinkin Miller and passes by southpaw quarterback Zay Laster.  The Falcons appeared on the edge of scoring as the third quarter expired, but nothing could prepare the fans of either team for the offensive explosion that was about to happen in the fourth quarter.

The Falcons scored on the first play of the fourth quarter to take a 17-14 lead and then took advantage of an interception return for a touchdown a few plays later to widen their lead.  The PAT was blocked and the Falcons had a 23-14 lead.

It looked like West Rowan finally had Salisbury figured out when the Falcons again lost a snap on a punt attempt allowing Salisbury to take possession at the West Rowan 16 yard line.  The Hornets scored on the next play, making it 23-21, and by this time both teams knew it was "game on" the rest of the fourth quarter.

Having the ball with five and a half minutes remaining, the Falcons went back to the ground game and methodically drove down the field.  Getting into the endzone with 1:17 left, the West Rowan fans began to chant "U-L-L-A!" while gathering their belongings, but the game was far from over.  Salisbury went right back down the field and scored with 30 seconds remaining. 

With the score 30-28 and thirty seconds left in the game, Salisbury needed to execute a successful onside kick to have a chance to win.  But, West Rowan had a better idea and took the onside kick back for a touchdown to make the final score 37-28 in favor of the Falcons.  West Rowan's ten year winning streak against in-county rivals was still intact, but it had been heavily challenged.

After the game, West Rowan coach Scott Young praised his players for making big plays when it counted and said he believes "games like this prepare you for the playoffs and I'm proud of what we were able to do."  Coach Joe Pinyan of Salisbury looked back at the game and wondered what happened to his team.  "In the first half, the defense was playing great, but the offense couldn't do much and in the second half the offense could do a few things but the defense couldn't make a stop when we needed it."  Both coaches agreed that games like these are what prepares a team for the playoffs.

Be sure to check out Carolina Gridiron for more information about future Games of the Week.