High-SchoolNorth-Carolina: West Rowan

Top 10 Stories of the Year in North Carolina

December, 29, 2011
12/29/11
10:10
AM ET
The year 2011 is winding down to a close and what a year it's been in sports. Here are the top 10 stories from the North Carolina high school sports scene:

10. Tragedy Strikes Twice
Unfortunately, sports is sometimes not about victory and triumph but loss and tragedy. So was the case in August, when Williams High QB Harry Cohen died from an accidental overdose just days after leading his team to victory, and in December, when Alleghany wrestler Luke Hampton was paralyzed during a match just days after earning the state's top ranking in Class 1A at 182 pounds. Our prayers go out to both families.

9. Stuntin' Like My Daddy
You could say it's in the genes and then some when it comes to Dillon Maples. A year after breaking his father's school record of 17 strikeouts by one, the Pinecrest senior tied his own mark with 18 Ks. Maples finished the year with a 9-1 record, 143 strikeouts and a 0.92 ERA. Similiar to his father, Tim, who was picked by the Orioles, the Cubs selected Dillon in the 14th round of the MLB Draft. Maples initially enrolled at UNC, but in August, he agreed to a deal with the Cubs that included a $2.5 million signing bonus.

8. Cardinal Rule
Cardinal Gibbons dethroned two-time defending Class 3A champ Chapel Hill this past fall by the smallest of margins — one point. The Crusaders placed five runners in the top 20, including individual champion Steven Phillips, who clocked a time of 15:49.

7. Last Hope
Midway through the season, Green Hope soccer coach Andrew Chadwick surprised his team by announcing he would retire at the end of the year. The Falcons made sure their coach ended on a good note by winning the Class 4A title in a 2-1 overtime thriller against Myers Park.

6. West is the Best
In 2010, West Charlotte blew a lead and lost in the state semifinals. They made sure the same didn’t happen last year, breezing through the state tourney before letting the one they call Big Baby take over in the title game. Kennedy Meeks recorded 12 points, nine blocks and 19 rebounds (the fourth most in championship game history) to earn MVP honors.

5. New Faces Reach New Places
This past football season saw some unusual suspects claim state crowns. Scotland won its first ever state title by going 15-0 en route to the Class 4A crown and Havelock dethroned three-time defending Class 3A champ West Rowan.

4. Golden Graham
Thomas Graham painted the picture of dominance during his prep career, winning four straight NCISSA 3A state cross country championships. Graham also held his own on the national scene by copping ninth at the Foot Locker Nationals and 15th in the final DyeStat rankings.

3. A Page Out of History
Despite entering the postseason undefeated and as a top seed, Greensboro Page had quite the tough road to the Class 4AA title. That didn't faze the Pirates, who knocked off two-time defending champ Butler and season-long favorite Mallard Creek in consecutive weeks before beating Garner in the 4AA championship.

2. Purvis Picks 'Pack
Earlier this year, Rodney Purvis was headed to Louisville, which rested in the same Blue Grass State that another top NC recruit by the name of John Wall played his college ball. But an assistant coaching shake-up led Purvis to decommit in May. After months of thinking, the Upper Room Christian senior guard decided to stay in his backyard and play for N.C. State.

1. Top Dog
On Dec. 6, Keith Marshall went to sleep a Clemson Tiger but woke up a Georgia Bulldog. After narrowing his choices, the speedy Millbrook tailback and the nation's sixth-best recruit decided on his childhood favorite team of Georgia, where he plans to enroll in January.

Brandon Parker covers North Carolina for ESPNHS magazine and ESPNHS.com. Follow him on Twitter@brandoncparker or email him at brandon.c.parker@espn.com.

North Carolina football championships preview

December, 2, 2011
12/02/11
1:48
PM ET
Preseason predictions, records, past history — throw them all out the window. This weekend, it will all come down to one game in deciding who's No. 1.

4AA: Greensboro Page vs. Garner (3 p.m. Saturday) All season long, both of these teams have quietly made a case for being the state's top team. In the last two rounds, Page knocked off Butler and Mallard Creek, teams that most figured had the best shot at winning the title. Meanwhile, Garner has blown up the scoreboard and blown out opponents, putting up 40-plus points in 10 of their last 11 games while letting the backfield of Juwan Moye and Demetrius Fairley run loose. Offensive firepower isn't a problem for either team, which makes defense the X-factor. Page has used late turnovers to rally in the last two weeks, while Garner stuffed a potent Jack Britt run game in the final quarter to pull out its semifinal win.
My pick: Garner 38, Greensboro Page 35

4A: Scotland vs. Porter Ridge (7 p.m. Saturday)
Jack Britt coach Richard Bailey told me about a month before the season that Scotland was going to be really good this season. I know I said throw out the predictions, but clearly the long-time coach was dead on. Scotland has used its talented QB Kwashaun Quick, wealth of rushers and impressive skill players on defense to run the table so far this year. Porter Ridge has a formidable QB in Lee McNeil and has the ability to pull out gritty wins. The Fighting Scots have had little trouble with their playoff opponents thus far, but Porter Ridge is likely to change that.
My pick: Scotland 31, Porter Ridge 27

3AA: Crest vs. Northern Guilford (7:30 p.m.Friday)
These two tangled in last year's title game with Northern Guilford prevailing 21-20 for the crown. The Nighthawks enter as the slight favorite again, riding a 13-game win streak and a formidable RB in T.J. Logan (2,264 rushing yards, 34 touchdowns). Crest star DL Jonathan Bullard and the rest of the Chargers D will need to be at their best to slow Logan. So will the Chargers offense, which has hit its stride after changing schemes midseason and found production behind Rhaheim Ledbetter, a Florida commit who has 1,027 rushing yards and 19 scores but is actually better at DB.
My pick: Crest 21, Northern Guilford 20

3A: Havelock vs. West Rowan (11 a.m. Saturday)
West Rowan is going for its fourth straight title, but unlike in years past, Havelock enters as the juggernaut. Havelock is averaging 51.5 points per game and has put up at least 62 in three of its four playoff wins. Quarterback Garrett Rowe has played a big part, throwing for 3,208 yards and 36 touchdowns. But for as serious as those stats are, West Rowan's experience and talent on both sides of the ball grants its the tools to slow down the Rams.
My pick: Havelock 42, West Rowan 35

2AA: Kinston vs. West Stokes (3 p.m. Saturday)
The road to this point hasn't been easy for either team. Kinston has needed several cardiac comebacks to down Bunn and Reidsville by a combined five points while West Stokes used a furious fourth-quarter comeback to erase a 12-point lead and beat Shelby in the semis. West Stokes has a fiesty defense led by sack machine Tyler Bullard. but Kinston counters with several playmakers in QB C.J. Bradshaw and running back Shaheed Swinson.
My pick: West Stokes 24, Kinston 17

2A: Tarboro vs. Lincolnton (11 a.m. Saturday)
Tarboro is back in the title game for the fourth straight year in hopes of winning its third straight crown. All of you are familiar with standout tailback Todd Gurley from his ESPNHS diary and it's safe to say Lincolnton's plan will be to stop the senior. Gurley has fought through injury to top the 2,00-yard mark and power the Vikings to wins, including a late score in last week's semifinal round against South Columbus. The run game will be a concern for the Tarboro D, too, which has to find a way to thwart Lincolnton's tricky triple-option offense.
My pick: Tarboro 21, Lincolnton 18

1AA: Ayden-Grifton vs. Swain County (11 a.m. Saturday)
Ayden-Grifton pulled off the major upset last week, downing two-time defending state champ Wallace-Rose Hill, led by QB Brandon Larry (242 total yards, two score). Will this be enough to knock off a surging Swain County squad?
My pick: Ayden-Grifton 24, Swain County 21

1A: Jones County vs. Murphy (7:30 p.m. Friday)
Murphy began the year 0-3, but with a dual-threat QB that can pile up the stats in Seth Curtis (more than 3,200 total yards), the Bulldogs are back in the title game for the second straight year. Jones County, which is making its first championship-game appearance, will be looking for the upset.
My pick: Murphy 34, Jones County 25

Brandon Parker covers North Carolina for ESPNHS magazine and ESPNHS.com. Follow him on Twitter @brandoncparker or email him at brandon.c.parker@espn.com.

Page knocks off No. 1 Mallard Creek

November, 28, 2011
11/28/11
1:37
PM ET
Greensboro Page appears to have a serious case of deja vu — and that hasn't been a bad thing.

A week after dethroning two-time defending Class 4AA champ Butler, the underdog Pirates once again capitalized on late penalties and turnovers to erase a double-digit deficit and down the state's top-ranked team in Mallard Creek, 41-27.

Mallard Creek built a 12-point lead in the first quarter, but after Page rallied back, Blake Hickman returned a fumble recovery for a touchdown to put the Pirates up 33-27 in the third. A James Summer touchdown pass and an interception in the end zone helped the Pirates hold the lead for good and advance to the Class 4AA title game against Garner.

*Garner held off Jack Britt, 34-27, behind a gritty defensive effort. With the score knotted at 27 with 10 minutes to play, Garner stuffed the Buccaneers on their last three possessions. Meanwhile, the Trojans pulled ahead for good on a Vincent Jeffries' touchdown pass to Tim Thorb with 1:27 left on the clock. Jeffries finished the night with 268 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

*In the 4A semifinals, Porter Ridge advanced to its first state championship by narrowly beating Mooresville, 34-28. Mooresville nearly pulled off a late comeback after scoring with 1:34 left and recovering the ensuing onside kick. But Chris Duffy came up with a big interception with 48 seconds to clinch the victory. The Indians will face 14-0 Scotland, which had no trouble beating New Bern by a count of 61-28. The Fighting Scots broke out early behind three turnovers and a 26-point first quarter, earning them the chance to vie for their first state title.

*In the 3AA semis, the team that started off far from perfect (Crest at 1-2) upset the team that entered the game perfect (Charlotte Catholic at 13-0). Behind RB/DB Rhaheim Ledbetter's 268 rushing yards, two scores and interception, the Chargers beat Charlotte Catholic, 35-28. The Cougars hurt their own cause with five turnovers and three penalties that negated touchdowns. Crest, which reached the final last year, moves on to face Northern Guilford, which beat Hunt, 35-6.

Brandon Parker covers North Carolina for ESPNHS magazine and ESPNHS.com. Follow him on Twitter @brandoncparker or email him at brandon.c.parker@espn.com.
For the first time in three years, there will be a new Class 4AA champion.

With two-time defending champ Butler up 20 points in its third-round matchup with Greensboro Page, it appeared most local fans would get what they wanted: a rematch between Butler and Mallard Creek in the next round. But the Bulldogs' dream matchup vanished after a nightmarish second half.

Page capitalized on the Bulldogs' penalties and five turnovers to reel off 34 unanswered points and secure a 40-26 win on Friday. The Pirates, who were led by QB James Summers' 248 total yards and five touchdowns, will face Mallard Creek in this week's 4AA state semifinals.

Summers scored twice on runs to open the second half and tie the game before a one-yard TD pass to Orlando Hatfield gave the Pirates the lead for good with 4:48 to play. Meanwhile, Butler junior QB Riley Ferguson threw three picks in the final 15 minutes to thwart the Bulldogs' chances for a comeback.

Needless to say, Butler dropped out of the latest POWERADE FAB 50, while Mallard Creek moved up to No. 13 in the national rankings.

Garner will take on Jack Britt in the other 4AA semifinal after both teams rode their rushing attacks to victory. Garner was led by tailback Juwan Moye's 285 total yards and three scores in a 42-21 win against previously undefeated Leesville Road. The Pride got 402 total yards from do-everything player Braxton Berrios, but it wasn't enough to overcome the Trojans' quick start.

Meanwhile, Jack Britt ran the ball 60 times for 333 yards to push past Middle Creek, 28-14. After starting 2-2, the Buccaneers have won nine straight, including four straight shutouts prior to last week's third-round win.

A new 4A champion will be crowned as well after top-ranked Scotland knocked off defending champ Hillside. The Fighting Scots' were paced by the three-headed monster of QB Kwashaun Quick and tailbacks Tony McRae and Caison Murphy, who accounted for all seven of the the team's scores in the 35-7 win. Next up will be New Bern, which downed New Hanover, 31-20.

On the other hand, West Rowan has bounced back from a slow start to make sure there won't be a new champion in the 3A ranks. The three-time defending champs have won their last six games by an average of nearly 20 points, but face quite the test in a 13-1 Burns squad that has similar success on the scoreboard of late.

Brandon Parker covers North Carolina for ESPNHS magazine and ESPNHIGHSCHOOL.com. Follow him on Twitter @brandoncparker or email him at brandon.c.parker@espn.com.

Stock is rising for Houston, Jackson

September, 2, 2011
9/02/11
12:17
PM ET
In this week's edition of All-State Stock Watch, we're looking at All-State football players who saw their potential value rise or fall over the past week. A player could have performed well in a game, gotten a big-time scholarship offer, broken his leg or just had an off game. (Hey, it happens to the best of us.)
Here are the movers and shakers from week two:

UP — Steve Houston, Richmond RB/DB
Houston made his mark at the DB spot last season for Richmond, but it's from the tailback position that the senior is busting loose in 2011. The senior needed just seven carries to rack up 238 yards and three touchdowns in the Raiders' 44-7 win against Lee County.

DOWN — Alex McCalister, West Forsyth DL
When McCalister transferred from R.J. Reynolds this past summer, it appeared West Forsyth had gotten the jewel it needed to make its defense go. But the Titans' defensive unit has struggled in its first two games, surrendering 41 points in losses to East Forsyth and Carver. Last week against Carver, the Titans saw a 10-point, second-quarter lead disappear into a 17-13 loss. The good news, though, is that with a stud like McCalister, who has drawn several D-1 offers, West Forsyth has the tools to turn things around.

UP — Desmond Jackson, West Rowan RB
After overcoming the shock of losing its first game in 47 contests during the season opener against Mooresville, Jackson and West Rowan bounced back last week. The junior tailback scored three touchdowns to help the Falcons rally for a 45-32 win against Davie. Production like this is what the Falcons need to start up another lengthy win streak and win its fourth straight 3A title.

Brandon Parker covers North Carolina for ESPNHS magazine and ESPNHIGHSCHOOL.com. Follow him on Twitter @brandoncparker or email him at brandon.c.parker@espn.com.

Jack Britt, WF-Rolesville hit with upset bug

August, 29, 2011
8/29/11
11:10
AM ET
After watching another weekend of upsets on the gridiron, I teetered between two feelings:

-I know nothing when it comes to preseason rankings.
-If this keeps happening, will an "upset" as we know it still be an "upset" on the North Carolina football scene?

Eventually, I settled on the first notion.

Of course, it's early, so there's no need for teams to panic. But for perennial powers like Jack Britt (lost 21-14 to Lumberton in overtime) and Wake Forest-Rolesville (lost 20-17 in OT) who joined Butler, West Rowan and Hillside on the upset list, a wake-up call has been served.

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