Prep Football: Season not over for upstart Raiders
By Bret Strelow
MOUNT ULLA ó Jason Rollins restated the goals he has for South Rowan’s promising season as he addressed his team following a 28-0 loss at West Rowan.
Rollins made sure his players verbally acknowledged that they’d heard him. West has established itself as the clear-cut favorite to win the NPC after one league game, and the Raiders can’t afford to let one setback derail the next six weeks.”Our main goal is first or second place in the conference,” senior linebacker Cadarreus Mason said. “We won’t accept no other. First or second, that’s all. We know this will probably haunt us in the long run, but we’ve got a long season ahead of us. We have to keep winning games.”
Excitement over a 4-1 start gave way to frustration once the Falcons took control by scoring twice in a two-minute stretch of the second quarter.
Perceived as a contender with the best chance to unseat West, the Raiders move forward with an 0-1 record accompanying their spot in the standings.
South plays host to North Iredell next Friday and has an open date Oct. 9. The Raiders close the regular season with matchups against West Iredell, Carson, Statesville and East Rowan.
That’s five chances to climb toward the top of the NPC’s pecking order, and South will likely be favored in each of those games.
“I found out real quick tonight, when it was over, with our kids, they’ll fight back,” Rollins said. “I looked in their eyes, and they’re disappointed. I know they’ll show up Monday ready to get after it again. They’ve been like that for four years, so I’m not worried about that at all.”
South’s best chance to threaten West’s supremacy came in the first quarter, and two trips inside the Falcons’ 20-yard line produced no points.
Mark McDaniel opened the game with a 38-yard kick return into West territory, and the Raiders reached the 15 before Mackel Gaither tackled quarterback Blake Houston for a momentum-swinging sack. A fourth-and-4 draw netted no yardage.
Mason stripped the ball away from K.P. Parks and recovered it to give South possession at the West 30. The Raiders advanced to the 11, and Eli Goodson’s sack was the first of three straight losses. A 36-yard field goal missed.
“We couldn’t run the ball, couldn’t throw the ball, couldn’t do nothing after that,” Houston said.
South started the second quarter with a trio of three-and-outs, and it picked up a first down on its final series of the half only because West jumped offsides on fourth-and-3.
The Raiders were 0-of-7 passing in the quarter and gained 7 yards on their other eight plays.
South gave up the ball 51 seconds into the fourth quarter, and its offense didn’t return until 3:22 remained. Six fourth-quarter plays totaled 6 yards.
“Up front, West defensively, they blew us up and made it hard for our offense,” Rollins said. “We struggled to be able to move the football, and defensively we were on the field a long time. To hold K.P., we tried to do what we could.”
The defense held Parks relatively in check, and he finished with 167 yards ó 62 below his average ó on 29 carries.
His longest run was a 27-yard touchdown.
“They’re tough on the defensive side of the ball,” Parks said. “They were pretty stout in the middle, so we kept pounding and pounding.”
Rollins wants his team to take the same approach as it progresses through the rest of the season.
There’s plenty at stake in the final five games even if none of them create the same hoopla as Friday’s.
“That was probably the biggest game of the year so far, and it probably will be the biggest,” Houston said. “I think we can play with any other team and come out victorious. They’re a good football team, and I think we’re a pretty good football team.”
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