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North Stanly blanks North Rowan in YVC football showdown

Sports Editor’s Note: The following story was written by David Shaw for the Salisbury Post.

With a chance to slide into the driver’s seat in the Yadkin Valley Conference football standings, the defending-champion North Rowan Cavs rolled a gutterball in Friday’s 15-0 homecoming night loss to visiting North Stanly.

“We weren’t good enough,” first-year coach Nygel Pearson said with a post-game shrug, just moments after North Rowan (3-2, 3-1 YVC) was home-schooled by the league-leading Comets (4-0, 4-0). “We weren’t good enough as a team and I wasn’t a good enough coach. It just wasn’t good enough.”

North Rowan’s offense was rendered harmless. Running back Zay Davis, who’d previously zigged and zagged his way for more than 400 yards and five touchdowns, collected only 12 straight-ahead yards on six carries. The Cavs managed only five first downs — none in the second half — and were limited to 64 yards total offense.

“It’s very disappointing because we didn’t execute,” senior quarterback Kyree Sims explained after completing three of 10 passes for a net of three yards. “We didn’t play up to our standards. We played down.”

Winning coach Scott Crisco credited North Stanly’s ball-hungry defensive line for stopping Davis and sacking Sims four times.

“We don’t have the biggest-sized D-linemen, but we’re quick to the ball,” he said. “If you’re not fast, you don’t play D-line for us. We’ve got really fast guys, first-through-sixth.”

In the first half, the Cavs took nine snaps in North Stanly territory and advanced as deep as the enemy 28-yard line, but never threatened. The Comets, sparked by junior QB Luke Shaver (8-for-14, 151 yards), reached the North Rowan 22 before a second-quarter holding penalty cost them 13 yards. “Both teams hurt themselves with penalties and mistakes,” said Pearson.

North Stanly broke the drought with 7:45 remaining in the third period, when running back Cam Smith accepted a handoff and took one step to his right, then quickly reversed field on a 51-yard touchdown ramble down the left side.

“The cornerback and middle linebacker were supposed to cover him,” said Cavs’ senior Tsion Delaney. “But their line sealed us off and he got outside. After that, he was just too fast to catch.”

North Rowan squandered a scoring chance after sophomore Amari McArthur returned the ensuing kickoff 55 yards to the North Stanly 27. But the drive stalled when Sims was dropped in the backfield and an illegal touching flag led to a fourth-and-23 punting situation.

“We planned to go score and go win this game,” said Cavs’ center D.J. Simmons. “But miscommunication on both sides of the ball hurt us. We missed a lot of blocks and there were too many bad snaps.”

It got worse early in the fourth quarter. North Stanly stretched its lead to 13-0 when Shaver capped a six-play, 69-yard drive by bulldozing three yards into the end zone. Then the Comets forced North Rowan to begin its final drive from its own 1-yard line. On first down, a holding penalty in the end zone against the Cavs produced, by rule, a game-sealing safety.

“This hurts. It really does,” Delaney said afterward. “We didn’t play our game. Nothing went right. And all of that is on us.”

North Rowan can secure second place in the conference — and the accompanying 1A state playoff berth — with a victory in its final YVC game at South Davidson on April 5.

“We should still make the playoffs and hopefully make a run that way,” Pearson concluded. “We’ve been able to find our big plays in the running game, but we couldn’t tonight. That forced us to do more with the passing game, which didn’t produce. What all that says is we’ve got to be better, better than this.”

NOTES: North Stanly entered ranked 22nd in the state’s 1A poll. … Smith, a 160-pound sophomore, led all rushers with 87 yards on seven carries. The Comets finished with 11 first downs and 276 total yards. All six of Shaver’s first-half completions went to wideout Stefan Harris, including a 39-yard pickup early in the second period. Two snaps later, Delaney recovered a fumble for the game’s lone turnover. … Sims, who ran for 53 yards on 17 attempts, did not complete a pass in the second half.