3A Football Playoffs: West Rowan 48, Freedom 15
By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA ó West Rowan tailback K.P. Parks ripped through a crease for a 6-yard gain late in the third quarter.
Little separated that routine ramble from the other 1,256 carries in his career, except this one made him a 10,000-yard rusher. Parks became the second in state history to reach that milestone on Friday during West’s 41-9 first-round victory against Freedom in the first round of the 3A playoffs.
“We played well and fought hard, but they’re not the defending champs for nothing,” said Freedom coach Mike Helms.”
Parks, who is bearing down on 3,000 yards for his senior season, accumulated 219 yards on 29 carries before sitting down at the end of the third quarter. His three TDs bumped his career total to 142, and he produced a half-dozen, jaw-dropping runs that were anything but routine.
“I’ve had the good luck to watch K.P. make a whole lot of good runs,” said West’s Scott Young, who logged his 115th coaching victory to tie Roger Secreast for fourth place on Rowan County’s all-time list.No. 2 seed West (12-0) got three TD passes from B.J. Sherrill and continued its own good run. The Falcons settled this one in the first eight minutes. The defending 3A champs have won 26 in a row and play host to 10th-seeded R-S Central (9-3) next.
Like every other team in the state, the Falcons didn’t have an ideal week of practice.”We were in the gym all week with all the rain, but you can’t make excuses,” Parks said. “It’s the playoffs so you come out and perform.”
Jon Crucitti, who surpassed 1,000 receiving yards for the season, admitted the Falcons were lethargic in warmup activities.
“We got fussed at for warming up flat,” he said. “So from the kickoff, we knew we had to step it up some. We came out and took care of business, made sure we wouldn’t get chewed again.”
Freedom (5-7) fumbled on the first play from scrimmage. Chris Smith slapped the ball loose. Josh Poe recovered at the Freedom 29.
Sherrill’s pass to Patrick Hampton pushed the ball to the 12. Two carries by Parks put it in the end zone.
After Eric Cowan recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, Sherrill ran for 16 yards before throwing to Crucitti for a 14-yard TD. The PAT try was a rare miss for Bertin Suarez, but it was 13-0.
Freedom, which had zero net rushing yards, then went three-and-out, with Domonique Noble defending a third-down pass. An electric punt return by Crucitti carried the ball to the Freedom 27. Parks got the short-field TD.The onslaught continued with another Freedom three-and-out, a strong punt return by Cowan and Parks’ third TD. It was 27-0, with 4:31 still remaining in the first quarter.
“We came out with a sense of urgency, looking for three-and-outs,” Smith said. “We got them ó and some turnovers.”
On Freedom’s next possession, it faced fourth-and-3 at midfield and had no choice but to go for it. It appeared this one might be headed toward 99-0, but West jumped offsides to hand the Patriots their initial first down. That got a drive going, and Freedom sophomore quarterback Mike Helms threw a TD pass to make it 27-6. That gave Freedom momentum that it maintained for the next six minutes.The Patriots halted two runs by Parks in the backfield and tacked on a field goal for a 27-9 score after West failed on a fake punt.
‘All the credit in the world to Freedom’s kids and Coach Helms because they had the opportunity to lay down when it was 27-0 quick,” Young said. “They continued to compete.”
West recaptured control midway through the second quarter on a 39-yard TD pass from Sherrill to Crucitti, who broke an open-field tackle and sprinted to the end zone.
West made it 41-9 before halftime when Sherrill hit KaJuan Phillips to record his 18th TD pass of the season.
Helms threw his second TD pass late in the game, but West owned the second half.
Eli Goodson recovered a fumble, while Cowan and Noble made picks. Noble got one on his mother’s birthday.
“I should have had three picks, but you can’t get them all,” he said. “I’m very thankful for the one I got for her.”
Overall, Young was pleased with the first round.
“Mission accomplished,” he said. “There were things we didn’t do all that well, but when you get to this point it’s just survive and advance.”