The Southwest Cowboys were the underdogs on paper on Friday night as they travelled to Northwest Guilford High School to take on the Vikings. Many, including myself, thought that the Vikings were destined to win. However, Cowboy fans, players, and coaches seemed very confident that they had a great chance to pull off a victory.
And they were right.
The game was full of turnovers and penalties by both teams. The Vikings had a total of five, three coming in their first four possessions. The Cowboys had three, with one fumble that they recovered. All of the Cowboy turnovers on the night were credited to sophomore quarterback Jaren Rainey, who had two fumbles and one interception. This was more than likely due to the fact that Rainey had injured his thumb early in the game and was replaced on drives in the first and second quarters by back-up Mason Chu.
Southwest began the scoring with 8:13 left in the first half when Jaren Rainey ran the ball one yard up the middle on fourth and goal for the touchdown. Chase Bradshaw added the extra point, and the Cowboys were up 7-0.
Caleb Homol was the starting quarterback for the Vikings once again Friday night, and, once again, he struggled. Four of Northwest’s turnovers came from the Viking starting quarterback: one fumble and three interceptions.
Homol, however, made big completions at the beginning of the game. His 10-yard pass to Tre’ Turner with 1:57 left in the 2nd quarter was the highlight of those completions and Homol’s night as a whole. Things quickly went downhill for him after the first half. After interceptions on consecutive drives in the third quarter, Homol was replaced by Jake Smith.
The Cowboys scored on their opening drive in the second half when Jaren Rainey hooked up with star receiver Jeremiah Brown for a 67-yard touchdown with 10:30 remaining in the 3rd quarter. The Bradshaw extra point kick attempt was no good, and the Cowboys gained the momentum and a 13-7 lead in the second half.
That lead was short-lived. After Caleb Homol threw his first of two third-quarter interceptions, team leader and star Thomas Hennigan intercepted a Jaren Rainey pass and returned it 27 yards for the touchdown. Zac Ellison added the extra point kick, and the Vikings led 14-13.
Southwest’s final score on the night came at the 10:10 mark in the fourth quarter. Jaren Rainey had led his team on a 14-play drive that came after he had fumbled on the previous possession. Once again, he ran the ball in for the score, this time from five yards out. The Cowboys elected to go for the 2-point conversion, and Rainey’s pass was completed to DJ Gray for what would be the deciding point in the game.
Northwest’s defense made a big stop and forced the Cowboys to turn the ball over on downs with 3:35 left in the fourth quarter. The momentum shifted back to the home side of the field, and Viking fans’ hopes of a comeback looked to become more of a reality.
The Vikings took over on their own 49-yard line, and on 4th and 5, Jake Smith made a pass attempt to Mitch Bryant, who drew a pass interference call while attempting to make the catch. The penalty gave the Vikings 15 yards and a first down. Four plays later, Jake Smith found Cameron Cloud in the end zone with 42 seconds remaining in the game. Before the extra point, the Vikings took a timeout, making the crowd wonder if they would attempt the 2 points that would give Northwest the win.
After the timeout, the Vikings’ kicking team returned to the field, and holder Caleb Homol received a high snap. Kicker Zac Ellison missed the extra point kick, and the Vikings were upset by the (3-6, 1-2) Southwest Cowboys.
“We’re obviously vulnerable, and it’s mainly on the offensive side. Like I said, I’m going to continue to take responsibility for that and have to go back to work to find out how to win with the quarterbacks we have,” Coach Jared Rolfes said after the loss. “We’re continuing to struggle for continuity and consistency, and tonight, it wasn’t enough, and we’re going to have to fix that.”
Rolfes said the timeout before the final extra point attempt was because “our short snapper got hurt and we were making sure we had the right people in place. We weren’t considering going for two.” Rolfes added: “I don’t know if Jake Smith’s performance was good enough to earn him the starting job next week. It’s like Russian Roulette at that position right now.”
Viking Thomas Hennigan’s reaction mirrored Rolfes’ about their quarterback issues. “Personally, that’s a coach’s decision,” he said, “but someone is going to have to step up and take that role. Eventually someone’s going to have to wake up and take the job, because it’s open for the taking.”
On the other side of the field, the Cowboys celebrated a win that will more than likely gain them a spot in the playoffs. “When you’ve got players like Jeremiah Brown, who can stretch the field the way he did, Tamarius Howze who ran the ball great for us tonight. The big story for us tonight was our defense. They stepped it up and played well when we needed them to. This is a character win, a signature win,” Cowboy’s Head Coach Eric Rainey said of the big victory.
Southwest improves to (4-6, 2-2) with the win, and Northwest falls to (7-3, 2-2) after Friday night’s loss.
The Vikings and Cowboys will both be at home next week, playing games that will be deciding factors in the Piedmont Triad 4A standings. Northwest hosts the undefeated Eagles of East Forsyth, and High Point Central will travel to Southwest.
(SWG) Jaren Rainey 1 run (Chase Bradshaw kick)
(NWG) Tre’ Turner 10 pass from Caleb Homol (Zac Ellison kick)
(SWG) Jeremiah Brown 67 pass from Rainey (Bradshaw kick failed)
(NWG) Thomas Hennigan 27 Interception Return (Ellison kick)
(SWG) Rainey 5 run (Rainey pass to DJ Gray)
(NWG) Cameron Cloud 14 pass from Jake Smith (Ellison kick failed)
(SWG) Rainey 16-18 215yds 1TD, 1 INT; 17 rushes 86 yds, 2 TD
(SWG) Howze 18 rushes 93yds
(SWG) Brown 2 rec 66yds, TD
(NWG) Hennigan 6 rushes 16yds, INT Rec TD, 3 rec 12 yds
(NWG) Smith 6-10 40 yds 1 TD
(NWG) Finnie 20 rushes 50yds
(NWG) Turner 6 rec 52yds, 1 TD