Davie prevails with defensive gem

Published 9:32 am Thursday, September 15, 2016

It may not have taken an entire village to overcome visiting North Rowan, 7-6, in a nonconference football game on Friday, but it did take most of the Davie roster.

Davie’s offensive world revolves around quarterback Chris Reynolds and receiver Cooper Wall. In the previous game against Dudley, that world came crashing down, with Reynolds’ high ankle sprain taking its toll and forcing him to sit out against North and with Wall suffering a cracked rib and getting sidelined for around a month.

What really distinguished Friday’s triumph was the collective effort it took to prevail. The Cavaliers are a 2-A school, but it was still a good win with two stars out of action.

Compounding matters more, backup quarterback Ben Summers (shoulder) was out for the second week. It was truly a team effort. Josh Hall got the call at QB and did a nice job managing the game. Running back Peyton Hampton left with an injury and freshman replacement Adrian Cranfill scored Davie’s lone touchdown in the third quarter. Center Bailey Sloan only lasted one series before having to come out with a sickness, and Preston Robertson performed well in the next-man-up role. Broc Barnette blocked an extra point, a play that loomed large when Davie got on the scoreboard.

Davie’s offense did not dazzle, but man, its defense delivered a gem in as good a defensive struggle as you’ll see. North’s only points came on an interception return. North’s defense showed tons of heart and toughness as well.

This was the first loss for North (3-1), while Davie improved to 3-1 with one nonconference game to go.

“To line up on a Friday night without (Reynolds and Wall) … Man, we put a lot on a lot of other people to make it happen,” Davie coach DeVore Holman said. “We knew we were going to have to play great defense and win the special teams to be successful. Our offense scrapped for every dime and yard they could get. It’s a three-unit deal. When one unit is a little bit weak, the other two have to step up.”

The Davie defense tortured North from start to finish. The Cavs averaged 2.7 yards per play and had six first downs. They finished with 123 yards. QB Corbin Smith missed on 14 of 19 passes, throwing for 32 yards. They went 1 for 11 on third downs and punted eight times.

It starts with Davie’s deep defensive line. Jalen Redmond, Ronald Wilson and George Cuthrell started, with Spencer Wilson, Jesus Olmedo and Anthony Olmedo rotating in early and often. James Boyle, Cody Hendrix, Kinston Whitener and Jack Little swarmed as linebackers. Safety Hite Merrifield came up with a key interception.

“They couldn’t run it anywhere on us, and that pretty much stopped them because they couldn’t throw it either,” Barnette said. “We’ve got a heck of a line. They don’t stop pushing. They’re never getting pushed back.”

“As long as our defensive front can keep them clean, those (linebackers) should get there,” Holman said.

Hall came out hot in his first varsity start, connecting with Tyler Roberts for 20 yards on a slant pass between two defenders and for 13 more to Roberts on his second pass attempt. He played better than his final numbers suggest (4 of 13 for 67 yards and eight carries for 11 yards). He threw a beautiful deep ball to Roberts that would have been for 30-40 yards, but the North defender ripped it out of Roberts’ hands at the last second. A penalty negated a 19-yard completion to Mason Wilson. With North’s defense focussed on Hampton or Cranfill, Hall produced runs for 13, 8 and 7 yards. And there was never a delay-of-game flag.

“I’m so happy for him,” Reynolds said.

“It’s a tall task asking him to come in there with not much playing time under his belt,” left tackle Luke Pratapas, a fourth-year varsity starter, said. “But he showed up and managed the game well for us. He helped lead us to a W. That’s all we asked from him.”

“Josh really stepped up to the plate and led this team, despite what difficulties we had to overcome,” left guard Dex Bray said. “It was a good win.”

On North’s first play, Boyle set the tone by stopping Jaleel Webster for no gain. Five minutes later, Mitchell Ijames and Ta’saun Martin had blanket pass coverage to force a punt. Cranfill lost a fumble at the North 41, but Martin knocked away a near-completion to the dangerous Alonzo Sirleaf, Barnette broke up a slant to Dakerius Hoosier and North punted to the Davie 2.

The whole game was a fierce battle of field position, and North had Davie on its heels when Hall looked for a receiver from his own end zone on third-and-8. Victor Lyles intercepted the over-the-middle ball, then weaved and slipped arm tackles to reach the end zone from 11 yards out.

“What do you do? You move on to the next play,” Holman said.

Little did anyone know at the time, but Barnette’s block of Joe Harrison’s point-after kick proved to be a huge play as North’s lead was 6-0 with 9:25 remaining in the first half.

“I’ve just been running straight through,” Barnette said. “I figured maybe I could run straight through this time. I went straight up the middle, put one hand up and it hit me in the arm.”

After Barnette batted away a third-down pass, Cranfill’s 14-yard run, M. Wilson’s impressive back-shoulder catch for 22 yards and pass interference on North gave Davie a first down at the North 22. Hall looked for Beau Byerly on a corner route, but North’s Keith Carroll made a marvelous, tip-your-hat interception in the end zone to preserve North’s halftime lead.

“(Carroll’s) a good player,” Holman said. “That was like a punt, so it didn’t hurt.”

Davie’s defense continued to put on a show in the second half. Redmond and Hendrix tackled Webster for minus-1 on back-to-back plays. Four plays later, Hall eluded a defender in the backfield and picked up 7 yards.

“The read just told me to keep it and I ended up getting a few yards for big momentum swings,” Hall said.

On third-and-1, Cranfill went over right side and ripped off 24 yards for a game-tying TD. After managing just 35 yards in the first three games, the freshman pounded into a line that included Appalachian State-commit Zion Debose 24 times for 83 hard-earned yards. The 24-yarder was his first varsity score and the team’s longest run of the season.

“Everybody was screaming. It was hyped and intense,” Cranfill said of the big run. “I was scared at first (on varsity), but then I got used to it.”

“He’s something special,” Pratapas said. “I’m excited to see where he ends up going this season. I’m excited for what he’s got in store. He’s a very talented young guy, and he’s going to do something big.”

“He’s just a puppy, but he’s got that natural ability,” Holman said. “Peyton got a little gimpy with his knee, and (the running backs coach) went with the young cat more.”

Don’t forget about kicker/punter Jared Griggs’ impact on the game. He converted the extra point to put Davie ahead by one. On three of his six punts, he pinned North inside its 20. He also boomed a season-long 51-yarder.

“Again, we’re trying to win special teams,” Holman said. “He handled some (low snaps) that could have gotten away from him.”

Davie finally had the lead and its relentless defense did the rest. Jayden Jones tried to get outside on a first-down play, but Barnette dropped him 8 yards back. Then Matt Nesbit partially blocked a punt, resulting in a net of 5 yards to the North 31.

“We had a little game going in the middle this week for their punt team,” Holman said.

Griggs missed a 45-yard field goal, his first miss in six tries this season, but Hendrix recovered a North fumble on the next play.

But Davie’s offense went backward and Smith found Sirleaf for 31 yards to the Davie 40. Before that completion, Smith was 1 of 10 and North was 0 for 7 on third. North’s offense had some life, but Webster immediately fumbled and Little recovered for Davie.

After a Davie punt, a North pass only gained a yard as Little flew up for the stop. But when North punted, disaster nearly struck for Davie. The return man muffed it and a wild scramble ensued. Somehow, Martin emerged from the pile with the ball at the Davie 8.

“Ta’saun had a good game,” defensive coordinator Tim Devericks said. “He was blocking a guy. When he turned around, he saw it muffed. Man, he went in there and came out with it.”

There were so many difference-makers. What about Griggs’ punt from his own end zone that traveled 51 yards to the North 38 with 5:26 to go. How about Smith’s first-down screen pass to Webster that Hendrix destroyed for a loss of 8 yards. “We talked about what they like to do, and part of that package was their screen game,” Holman said. “He just sniffed it out. He smelled a rat.”

And then there was Spencer Wilson’s hit from behind as Smith released the ball, leading to a Merrifield interception at the North 49. He has two of Davie’s three INTs, including one during the furious fourth-quarter comeback at Page.

“We practice running the hoops at practice,” Holman said. “Spencer ran the hoops and came in the backdoor. We’re actually hunting a sack/fumble if we can get there.”

North had one last crack from its 9 with 2:59 left. Jones scampered for 14 and 18 yards on back-to-back plays, but that’s when Davie resumed its stone-wall ways.

Barnette stopped Webster for 1 yard. A short pass only gained a yard. Merrifield reached up to deflect a pass. Then a clothesline sack by Hendrix put North in a fourth-and-23 dilemma from its 28. A hook-and-lateral fell incomplete and it was over.

“Hendrix had a phenomenal game. So did Boyle,” Devericks said. “I’m so stinking proud of those guys, collectively playing as a unit.”


• Although Hall could not sustain his great start through the air, the two early completions to Roberts showed the threat of the pass existed and forced North’s linebackers and DBs to honor it.

“I’m proud of that young man,” Holman said. “He didn’t play as a sophomore. He came back this year and has done a great job. He’s a yes-sir, no-sir type of guy. He’s a very big part of our team.”

Hall might start again Friday at Hopewell as Reynolds nurses his ankle back to health in time for the league opener on Sept. 23.

“I knew everyone around me had faith in me, and I knew I could get the job done as long as I did everything we practiced,” Hall said. “Having everybody support me gave me a lot of confidence going into this game.”

• It was a defensive battle for the ages. It was the lowest-scoring game in seven years (3-0 loss to Alexander Central in ‘09), and it was Davie’s lowest-scoring win in nine years (3-0 over North Forsyth in ‘07). In the win over N. Forsyth in ‘07, Michael Rowe was the difference with a 42-yard field goal in the first quarter. Davie didn’t scratch again despite Garrett Benge’s 117 passing yards, James Mayfield’s 89 rushing yards and Derek Smith’s eight receptions.

N. Rowan        0    6    0    0 – 6

Davie       0    0    7    0 – 7

Second Quarter

NR – Lyles 11 INT return (kick blocked), 9:25.

Third Quarter

D – Cranfill 24 run (Griggs kick), 7:14.




Rushing 25-91 46-107

Passing 32 67

C-A-I 5-19-1 4-13-2

Punts 8-29 6-33

F-L 3-2 3-0

Penalties 7-65 11-75

3rd conv. 1/11 4/14


North Rowan

RUSHING – Jones 10-56, J. Webster 10-27, Perry 2-6, Smith 3-2

PASSING – Smith 5-19-1-32

RECEIVING – Sirleaf 2-38, Gray 2-2, J. Webster 1-(-8)


RUSHING – Cranfill 24-83, Hampton 14-13, Hall 8-11

PASSING – Hall 4-13-2-67

RECEIVING – M. Wilson 2-34, Roberts 2-33