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High school football: Friday, the 13th edition

High school football Friday …

Even President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, famed for, among other things, his Depression-era statement “that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” was deathly afraid of the number 13. FDR wouldn’t travel on the 13th and would never dine in a group of 13 people.

Napoleon Bonaparte, the little guy who tried his best to conquer the world more than once, feared 13 more than British cannons. Whether Napoleon Dynamite also feared 13, I have no idea.

Author Stephen King isn’t afraid of monsters and mayhem, but he is on record as being frightened of 13.  If he’s writing or reading, he will never stop with page 13.

“The number 13 never fails to trace that old icy finger up and down my spine,” King said.

Fear of 13 is so widespread that large hospitals and hotels frequently skip the 13th floor because no one wants to stay there and invite bad luck. Floors often are numbered 12, 12A  … 14.

In medieval times, bakers in London received dreadful punishments if they short-changed customers, so they included an additional loaf with each dozen they baked just to be on the safe side. That 13th loaf might have invited bad luck, so it came to be called a “baker’s dozen,” an expression that has stood the test of time.

There are people who insist supernatural forces were at work that caused the oxygen tank explosion on Apollo 13 on April 13, 1970 —  although if you’ve seen the movie, you know astronauts beat the odds and made it back home in one piece.

While most athletes have carefully avoided wearing 13 over the years, Wilt Chamberlain did manage to score 100 points  in the NBA one night while clad in a No. 13 jersey. Dan Marino was a pretty fair 13-wearing quarterback, and Alex Rodriguez (in his days with the New York Yankees) and MVPs Steve Nash and Kurt Warner also did their part to make 13 shine.

If you’re old, like me, you may remember Miami Dolphins safety Jake Scott, another famous 13, intercepting passes or New York Jet receiver Don Maynard (No. 13) catching passes from Joe Namath.

Still, fear of the number 13 is common enough that it has an official name — triskaidekaphobia – a mouthful that has tripped up a number of would-be spelling bee champions.

Of the days of the week that the 13th day of the month can fall upon, Friday seems to bring, by far, the greatest level of fear. Industrialist Henry Ford, a pretty smart guy, refused to conduct any business on Friday, the 13th.

Friday the 13ths are unusual, but not weirdly rare. Mathematicians tell us there has to be at least one in each calendar year. There usually are two, and there have been as many as three.

Tonight marks the first Friday, the 13th, of 2019, although there will be a second one in December, the day before the football state championship games.

This is the first football Friday, the 13th, in a while. There were a pair of Friday, the 13ths, in 2018, but both arrived during the baseball season.

The last football Friday, the 13th, we experienced fell on Oct. 13, 2017.

That night was unlucky for Salisbury: a 27-0 loser to Ledford; for Davie, a 20-17 loser to West Forsyth, and for West Rowan, which fell to South Iredell 57-34. The Falcons don’t normally give up 57, but maybe the Falcons walked under ladders on their way into the stadium.

That night was really unfortunate for East Rowan, which lost a thriller to rival Carson, 37-34.

But it was a lucky night for Carson, which got a huge effort from Cole Sifford; for A.L. Brown, a 21-7 winner over Cox Mill, and for South Rowan, which got n 85-yard punt return from Kory Sellers and a 100-yard interception return from Christian Reynolds to stun Thomasville, which couldn’t believe its bad luck.

All of which brings us to tonight’s next football installment of Friday, the 13th.

Who’s the best team in Rowan County going into the 13th? It’s debatable and it’s close between West Rowan (1-2), Salisbury (2-0) and East Rowan (2-1). MaxPreps ranks West Rowan 158th; Salisbury 169th, and East 173rd. Salisbury doesn’t play East or West, but East and West are scheduled to play each other on Oct. 11.

East is off tonight.

As far as last week’s predictions, all three “experts” stumbled on North Rowan/Lexington. North had every chance to win, but Lexington won 14-8. Scott Maddox and Marny Hendrick were 3-2 last week, while I was 4-1. They also missed on Cox Mill’s 28-13 win at West Rowan, although it looked they were going to be right for a long time.

Marny and Scott offer identical picks again tonight — Davie over West Rowan. Salisbury over Thomasville. A.L. Brown over Mooresville. North Rowan over Carson. South Rowan over East Davidson.

It’s actually a scary week. I don’t think any of those five games are sure things, even though Davie, the heaviest favorite, is generally picked by about two touchdowns. I’ll pick East Davidson, just to keep things exciting, although that one can certainly go either way.

Davie (3-0) at West Rowan (1-2)

Davie has serious firepower and quarterback Nate Hampton (8 TD passes the last two weeks) and running back Tate Carney are putting up insane numbers. Davie is undefeated, but all three wins were far from routine. The War Eagles have been giving up a ton of points and a lot of passing yards. I think Davie wins 28-21, something like that, but West is huge and has some playmakers. The only 13 in the game will be West receiver Max Blackledge.  Davie leads the series 28-18, although the Falcons won on the road last year.

Carson (1-2) at North Rowan (0-3)

Carson hasn’t scored the last two weeks, while the Cavaliers have struggled to score since the season began. Carson isn’t healthy and will be playing a backup QB, while North should be the healthiest it’s been all season. That and having the home field are good reasons to pick North in this endowment game (only NCHSAA passes accepted). The dominant unit on the field should be North’s defense. North has won the last three meetings and leads the series 7-5. Carson skips No. 13 on its roster, while North DB Jyrik Scott is bold enough to wear it.

Thomasville (1-1) at Salisbury (2-0)

If anyone is going to win a league championship or make a playoff run in Rowan this season, the best best is the ninth-ranked (in 2A) Hornets, who boast a ferocious defensive unit. This will probably be low-scoring because nearly all Salisbury-Thomasville games are conservative and tight. If the Hornets can score 13, they should be in good shape. Since the series re-started in 2009, it’s been Thomasville 6, Salisbury 5. Salisbury has a No. 13 on the roster — Tajareia Blackwell.

South Rowan (0-2) at East Davidson (0-2)

South’s defense has been penetrated for huge points and massive rushing yards so far, but the Raiders have a legitimate chance to outscore the Golden Eagles in this one. Of course, East Davidson also has this game circled as a probable win, and someone is going to be disappointed. South won in 2018, but East Davidson prevailed when the teams squared off in 2017 for the first time ever. It’s hard to guess a score, but the scoreboard should stay busy. No South player wears 13.

Mooresville (1-2) at A.L. Brown (1-0)

Mooresville has the advantage of having played three games, while A.L. Brown has played just one, but it’s a revenge game for the Wonders, who believe they got hosed at Mooresville last year.  One reason to pick the Wonders in this toss-up game is that one of their studs — receiver Jose Vargas — is a proud wearer of the 13 jersey. Maybe he’ll have a monster night. As far as the series, there have been Kannapolis-Mooresville clashes for as long as anyone can remember. Since A.L. Brown opened in 1952, the Wonders own a 17-10 edge, but it’s 3-3 the last six seasons.

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