Halftime hole too deep for War Eagle football to overcome

Published 9:33 am Thursday, August 25, 2022

By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

In a game of 136 plays, one play determined whether Davie’s football team was going to possibly continue its rally from a 24-point halftime hole and put a major scare in the Mooresville Blue Devils.

After a disastrous second quarter left them trailing 31-7 at halftime, the War Eagles had new life late in the third quarter. It was 31-21 and Mooresville was facing third-and-10 from its 40. Mooresville quarterback Jamere Cherry threw deep. Davie’s cornerback appeared to be in perfect position to break up the pass. Alas, Mooresville’s Terrell Simonton, a 6-3 senior receiver, somehow came down with the ball. The 37-yard gain led to a backbreaking touchdown, and the host Blue Devils went on to win 44-28 in Friday’s season opener.

“They had three (catches) that were that scenario – two touchdown catches and that third-and-10,” Davie coach Tim Devericks said. “I think on all three of those, we had the corner in the right spot. Some of those were 50-50 balls and they made the adjustment on the ball and made the catches.”

“We needed a play in that situation,” Mooresville coach Joe Nixon said. “Hats off to our quarterback for giving our guy a chance to make a play.”

The War Eagles couldn’t buy a break and they also shot themselves in the foot repeatedly. There were five dropped passes in the first half and at least seven for the game. When they finally forced a punt early in the third, the Mooresville punter boomed it 50 yards to the Davie 8, and a penalty on the play backed it up to the 4. With the game tied in the second quarter, Mooresville had a busted play on third-and-11. But Cherry improvised and found a way to pick up 11 yards to keep a long scoring drive going. Davie’s offense got going in the third quarter and had first-and-goal at the 1, only to see a high snap result in a 12-yard loss. (Davie managed to recover from that mishap and scored to spark its third-quarter rally.) It was that kind of night for the War Eagles.

“We are a young team in spots and that showed a little bit tonight with our execution,” Devericks said. “For some of these guys, it was their first Friday night lights.”

On Mooresville’s first possession, Nixon dialed up a fake punt on fourth-and-8 from the Davie 39. The snap went to the up-man, but he had nowhere to go as Ethan Silvey dropped him for an 8-yard loss.

Davie, though, couldn’t take advantage, losing 8 yards on fourth-and-1 from the Mooresville 44 and watching Mooresville running back Jawarn Howell turn the left corner for a 48-yard touchdown.

But Davie was able to answer that one. After QB Ty Miller hit Evan York for 18 yards, receiver Brodie Smith got behind the defense and reeled in a 38-yarder to the Mooresville 10. Running back Markel Summers would score as Davie tied it at 7.

The second quarter, though, was all Mooresville. It scored 24 unanswered points in less than nine minutes. Two plays after Cherry moved the sticks on the busted play, receiver AJ Graham outjumped a defensive back and made a spectacular 14-yard TD catch to cap an 80-yard drive.

A Davie receiver dropped a third-and-15 pass that would have been right at the marker, and punter Palmer Williams mishandled the snap and was swarmed under at the Davie 17.

The Davie defense got a small victory against the short field, forcing Mooresville to settle for three. A Willie Purvis hit jarred the ball from Howell, but Mooresville recovered the fumble. Linebacker Zack Banks’ blitzing pressure forced an incompletion to set up a 28-yard field goal that made it 17-7.

Then Davie dropped back-to-back passes and punted. Moments later, Cherry found an open Simonton for a 32-yard TD. Mooresville intercepted Miller and receiver Randy Fulmore made a 22-yard TD catch against tight coverage to give the Blue Devils the 31-7 halftime lead.

“We were not executing plays that were there,” Devericks said. “We’ve got guys who might be older in class, but not experienced on the field. That takes some time even though we catch a thousand balls a week. It takes time to feel comfortable and be able to execute on a Friday night.”

At halftime, the War Eagles pushed the reset button.

“I challenged them,” Devericks said. “It’s in them and they proved it in the second half. I left it to them to say some words and I’m proud of them for stepping up and saying: ‘Yeah, that’s not us.’”

Davie got its act together after Mooresville’s 50-yard punt deep in Davie territory. Miller sped 34 yards, and with a Mooresville penalty tacked on, Davie was at the Mooresville 7. Backup running back Taye Maddox moved the ball to the 1, and after the bad snap pushed Davie back to the 13, Miller hit Aidan Froelich to complete a 12-play, 96-yard TD drive.

Cornerbacks Landon King and Purvis denied back-to-back long passes, and then John Stokes blocked a punt to give Davie possession at the Mooresville 28. Summers carried the ball on four of five plays and scored from the 6.

“Decision-making is an important part of playing quarterback – knowing when to run and when to throw,” Devericks said of Miller’s 34-yard scamper. “The challenge at halftime was to give max effort. (Stokes’ blocked punt) was max effort toward their gap. Our guys were executing, playing more physical and finishing plays.”

With 1:39 left in the third, Davie had a puncher’s chance at 31-21. Purvis broke up a second-down pass, but Simonton hauled in the contested third-and-10 pass for 37 yards, and that all but ended Davie’s hopes. The slippery Kyjuan Westmoreland sliced 22 yards to the Davie 1 on the next play and Mooresville went up 38-21.

Howell and Westmoreland took turns gashing the War Eagles. Howell, a bruising 6-3, 190-pound senior, rumbled for 164 yards on 18 carries. Westmoreland, a 5-8, 155-pound jitterbug, went for 110 yards on 13 tries. And then there was Cherry, who mixed in 170 passing yards and three TDs on 10-of-17 completions.

“They’re two different types of backs,” Nixon said of Howell and Westmoreland. “We knew what both of those guys could do. They’re dynamic players. I’m really proud of those guys, but they couldn’t have done it without the offensive line. The line played really well.

“It was (Cherry’s) first game back from his torn ACL last year at the end of the season. So I’m really happy for him for the work he put in to get back. He managed the game well and made some big throws.”

Davie’s offense fought till the bitter end. Miller connected with Smith for 29 yards on third-and-15, Bryan Argueta’s catch moved the chains on fourth-and-8, and completions to Summers and Froelich moved the ball to the Mooresville 8. Miller dove for the pylon and scored to culminate a 16-play, 79-yard drive. That made it 38-28, although only 5:40 remained.

In the second half, Davie accumulated 16 first downs and 238 yards as Miller threw for 128 yards on 11 completions.

“The score in the second half was 21-13 (in Davie’s favor),” Devericks said. “They answered the call. That’s positive. (But) with our schedule, you can’t spot any opponent good field position and points.”

Notes

• Mooresville even scored when it was content to milk the clock. It moved 68 yards on eight straight runs and scored the final TD with 2:53 to go.

• Summers rushed for 94 yards and two TDs. Miller had 215 passing yards to go with 57 rushing yards. He hit seven different targets, including Argueta (4-31), Smith (3-80), York (3-40), Froelich (3-36) and Braddock Coleman (2-21). Williams went 4 for 4 on extra points and sent three of four kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks.

• Davie’s leading tacklers were Justin Hayes (eight), Connor Hood (eight), Purvis (six), Landon Barber (six) and Matty Warner (five). Mason Shermer had three quarterback hurries, and Purvis had two pass breakups.

• Senior linebacker Morgan Creason suffered a season-ending knee injury before the season. Davie was missing a key cog on the offensive line in senior Charlie Frye, the starter at right tackle who is nursing a shoulder injury. The OL was also missing senior Angel Mondragon.

• Mooresville avenged a 51-34 loss at Davie in 2021. Davie now leads the all-time series 17-15-1.

• Although Davie beat West Rowan convincingly the past two seasons, Friday’s home opener at 7 p.m. could be treacherous. While the War Eagles were losing at Mooresville, West was stunning Salisbury 31-7. It was a huge West win over a team that went 33-6 the past three seasons.

The War Eagles handled West 35-7 in the spring of 2021 and 56-30 in the fall of 2021. They are trying to beat West three straight times for the first time since 1982-84. Davie leads the series 31-20-1.