Rivalry renewed: Titans, Patriots meet for first time in new NWC

An Alexander Central player grabs the facemask of McDowell's Andruw Randolph as Randolph tries to make a tackle during a game earlier this season. McDowell hosts Freedom tonight (7:30). A win, coupled with a South Caldwell loss against Alexander Central, would give the Titans a berth in the State 4A Playoffs.

Josh Davis/blessmysoulphotography.com

Note: "Tonight" in the story refers to Friday.

Earlier in the Northwestern 3A/4A Conference season, it appeared the McDowell Titans’ impending regular-season finale against the Freedom Patriots was destined to be contested for pride alone, at least where the Titans were concerned.

Don’t look now, but things just got real.

The Titans (1-5 NWC, 2-8 overall) host the Patriots (3-3, 6-4) tonight (7:30) with a chance at a State 4A Playoff berth they thought was all but lost with a defeat against South Caldwell – the league’s only other 4A school – earlier in the season.

But thanks to a dramatic, 21-14 overtime win over West Caldwell last Friday, the Titans’ playoff hopes still have some life. A win tonight, coupled with a South Caldwell loss to league-leading Alexander Central, would give McDowell the split conference’s only 4A playoff spot, as well as a first-round bye and a second-round home game. The Titans haven’t hosted a playoff game since a 19-14 loss to South Meck in the second round in 1993.

If the Titans lose tonight and/or South Caldwell wins, McDowell’s season is over.

Keeping the hope alive won’t be easy, even though Freedom has lost three of its last four, including a 42-0 beat-down by Watauga last week and a 44-42 upset by West Caldwell two weeks ago.

The Patriots are still the same team that played powerhouse Shelby a 14-7 game in Week 1. They’re still the same bunch that hammered Patton – a team that thumped McDowell 42-7 – by a 31-14 score. They’re still plenty athletic, and they still have the conference’s most prolific quarterback.

Sophomore Jayden Birchfield (6-2, 190) is (unofficially) 211-of-293 passing for 2,401 yards and 22 touchdowns with just six interceptions this season. He’s completing a remarkable 72 percent of his passes.

Birchfield has spread the wealth among his receivers; three Patriots have accumulated more than 300 receiving yards, including junior Jaxon McMahan (5-9, 153), senior Tristan Somerville (5-11, 175) and junior Christian Fox (6-1, 175).

Freedom has relied primarily on the passing game, averaging around 115 rushing yards per contest. The team’s leading rusher, C.J. Hayden, missed last week’s game for unspecified reasons, and was no longer listed on the Patriots’ roster as of Thursday afternoon.

On the other side of the ball, senior lineman Ryan Woods (6-0, 255) has been a standout. As of the Pats’ latest statistical updates on MaxPreps.com, he was tied for the team lead with 55 tackles, 11 of them for losses. Sophomore safety Day Day Burgess also had 55 stops. Junior linebacker Jee Hardy (5-11, 180) and junior tackle James Boyd (6-1, 298) shared the team lead in sacks with four apiece.

McDowell will counter with the likes of senior quarterback Ben Ballew, who has put up impressive numbers all season. Ballew (110-of-184 passing, 1,275 yards, 12 TDs, 8 INTs) is second only to Birchfield in NWC passing yardage. Ballew recently became just the third quarterback in school history to surpass the 1,000-yard mark in at least two seasons. He also became the school’s third leading passer of all-time (246-of-433, 2,613 yards, 21TDs) and moved into third all-time with 13 career 100-yard games.

Last week, Ballew connected on 18 of 27 throws for 235 yards and two scores with two picks in the win over West Caldwell. His five favorite receivers, Andruw Randolph, Dakota Effler, Seth Phillips, J.C. Olivo and Trevor Pearson, caught at least three balls apiece.

On the season, Effler has 29 receptions for 365 yards and a touchdown to lead the team. Randolph (32-363-5TDs), Pearson (19-254-2TDs), Phillips (29-229-3TDs) and Olivo (17-196-TD) round out the Titans’ top five receivers.

Olivo leads the team in rushing with 758 yards and four scores on 152 carries. He rolled up 88 yards on 17 attempts in last week’s win. Adam Randolph, who splits time with Ballew at quarterback and is primarily a runner, has 320 yards and three TDs on 57 carries. His 10-yard sprint on the first play of overtime was the game-winner last week.

Defensively, linebacker Andrew Davis has led the team in tackles all season, and now has 94 stops to his credit. Defensive back Austin Prince (61 tackles), linebacker Trey Beverly (48 tackles, 3 sacks), safety Adam Randolph (47 tackles, INT) and nose guard Ricky Amador (39 tackles, team-high 9 TFL) complete the top five.

Even if the game had no playoff ramifications, it would still represent the renewal of a once-fierce rivalry that produced healthy gate receipts for both schools. Freedom leads the all-time series 23-15 and has won the last two meetings between the two, including a 46-0 victory in 2010. The last time the two met in league play as part of the old Northwestern 4A was in 2008, when the Titans beat the Pats 14-7 in Morganton.

Elsewhere in the conference tonight, Alexander Central (5-1, 9-1) fresh off a stinging, 38-28 loss to Hickory, visits South Caldwell (1-5, 1-9). A win would give the Cougars the outright championship in the first year of the newly formed league.

Northwestern 4A/3A Conference football 2017

 

                                    Conf.          Overall

Alexander Central       5-1              9-1

Watauga                      4-2              8-2

Hickory                       4-2              6-4

Freedom                      3-3              6-4

West Caldwell             3-3              6-4

St. Stephens                3-3              4-6

McDowell (4A)            1-5              2-8

South Caldwell (4A)    1-5              1-9

 

Friday, Oct. 27

McDowell 21, West Caldwell 14 (OT)

Hickory 38, Alexander Central 28

St. Stephens 56, South Caldwell 7

Watauga 42, Freedom 0

 

Friday, Nov. 3

Freedom at McDowell

Alexander Central at South Caldwell

West Caldwell at Watauga

Hickory at St. Stephens

End regular season

 

Friday, Aug. 18

R-S Central 20, McDowell 14

Alexander Central 28, Burns 23

Watauga 35, T.C. Roberson 34

West Caldwell 35, East Burke 0

Shelby 14, Freedom 7

Bandys 42, St. Stephens 40

Statesville 27, Hickory 26

 

Friday, Aug. 25

McDowell 43, Avery 6

Alexander Central 28, Wilkes Central 6

Kings Mountain 64, South Caldwell 6

Watauga 53, Ashe County 21

Freedom 41, Draughn 6

St. Stephens 35, Bunker Hill 7

Hibriten 55, West Caldwell 0

 

Wednesday, Aug. 30

East Rutherford 47, South Caldwell 7

 

Thursday, Aug. 31

Patton 42, McDowell 7

Freedom 48, East Burke 8

Alexander Central 46, North Iredell 0

West Caldwell 28, West Iredell 21

 

Friday, Sept. 1

Watauga 49, Avery 8

 

Monday, Sept. 4

Newton-Conover 45, Hickory 26

 

Friday, Sept. 8

Mitchell 49, McDowell 19

Alexander Central 40, North Lincoln 36

Hibriten 48, South Caldwell 0

Watauga 50, Wilkes Central 26

Freedom 31, Patton 14

Maiden 28, St. Stephens 7

Hickory 28, Huss 27

West Caldwell 54, Ashe 40

 

Friday, Sept. 15

R-S Central 23, South Caldwell 14

Foard 55, St. Stephens 34

Hickory 33, Bandys 10

 

Friday, Sept. 22

Hickory 36, McDowell 13

Alexander Central 59, West Caldwell 35

Watauga 48, South Caldwell 7

Freedom 36, St. Stephens 0

 

Friday, Sept. 29

St. Stephens 19, McDowell 17

Alexander Central 38, Watauga 33

West Caldwell 49, South Caldwell 43

Freedom 35, Hickory 30

 

Friday, Oct. 6

South Caldwell 46, McDowell 27

Alexander Central 33, Freedom 27

Watauga 49, Hickory 42

West Caldwell 33, St. Stephens 21

 

Friday, Oct. 13

Alexander Central 55, McDowell 21

Freedom 28, South Caldwell 3

St. Stephens 26, Watauga 21

Hickory 66, West Caldwell 49

 

Friday, Oct. 20

Watauga 61, McDowell 17

Alexander Central 59, St. Stephens 21

Hickory 27, South Caldwell 23

West Caldwell 44, Freedom 42

 

McDowell High Titans football stats 2017

 

                          Opponents           McDowell

First downs        215                       134

Rushes-yds.       441-3291              312-1152

Passing              74-125-2-11                   134-227-11-15

Passing yds.       1070                     1498

Total yds.          4360                     2660

Fumbles/lost      18/12                    15/9

Penalties-yds.     117-930                88-707

 

Opponents                  55   103 107 83   00 – 348

McDowell          47   61   42   42   07 – 199

 

Individual stats

 

Rushing

Player                          Attempts    Yards                   Avg.            TD

J.C. Olivo                    152             758             5.0              4

Adam Randolph                   57               320             5.6              3

Evan Cable                  13               49              3.8              0

Dre’ Collins                 10               36              3.6              0

Andrew Davis             08               20              2.5              1

Dakota Effler               02               15              7.5              0

Richard Handy            03               13              4.3              0

Ricky Amador             01               05              5.0              0

Andruw Randolph      02               02              1.0              0

Austin Prince               01               00              0.0              0

Team                           04               m32           0.0              0

Ben Ballew                  53               m33           0.0              0

Totals                          312             1152           3.7              8

 

Passing

Player                Comp.    Att.        Yds.            TD    INT

Ben Ballew        110         184        1275            12      8

Ad. Randolph    24           43           223              3        3

Totals                134         227        1498            15      11

 

Receiving

Player                          Rec.   Yds.  TD

Effler                           29      365    1

Andruw Randolph      32      363    5

Trevor Pearson            19      254    2

Seth Phillips                29      229    3

Olivo                           17      196    1

Ad. Randolph              03      59      2

Qualique Garner                   02      16      1

Trey Beverley              01      09      0

Prince                          01      04      0

Cedric Biddle               01      03      0

Totals                          134    1498  15

 

Kickoff/punt returns

Player                          Ret.   Yds.  Avg.  TD

Olivo                           21      454    21.6   1

Effler                           11      131    12.0   0

Steven Webb               04      94      23.5   0

Prince                          01      31      31.0   0

Tice Edwards              02      24      12.0   0

Zach May                    04      23      5.8     0

Phillips                        01      08      8.0     0                

Johan Ayala                02      08      4.0     0

An. Randolph              02      07      3.5     0

 

Kicking

Player                XPA  XPM FGM FGA  Block    Long

Chase Baird       22      19      04      07      00         39

 

Punting

Player                Punts          Avg.

Cole England     47               33.0

 

Scoring

Player                          TD    Rush Rec.   Ret.   FG     XP     Pts.

Olivo                           06      04      01      01      00      00      36

Baird                           00      00      00      00      12      19      31

Andr. Randolph          05      00      05      00      00      00      30

Ad. Randolph              05      03      02      00      00      00      30

Phillips                        03      00      03      00      00      02      20

Biddle                          03      00      00      03      00      00      18

Pearson                       02      00      02      00      00      00      12

Davis                           01      01      00      00      00      04      10

Effler                           01      00      01      00      00      00      06

Garner                         01      00      01      00      00      00      06

Totals                          27      08      15      04      12      25      199

 

Defense

Tackles

Player                          Solo  Assist                   Total

Davis                           65      29               94

Austin Prince               49      12               61

Trey Beverly               43      5                 48

Ad. Randolph              43      4                 47

R. Amador                            29      10                    39

Eric Miller                             20      16                    36

An. Randolph              32      4                 36

Biddle                          26      10               36

Johan Ayala                25      9                 34

Edwards                      24      9                 33

Webb                           24      2                 26

Collins                         16      6                 22

Bryce Allison              10      3                 13

Effler                           12      1                 13

 

Tackles for loss: R. Amador 9, Beverly 3, Edwards, Ayala 2, Davis, Eric Miller, David Amador, Biddle, Ad. Randolph 1,

Quarterback sacks: Biddle 3.5, Beverly 3, Davis 2, R. Amador, Edwards, Evan Cable 1, Bryce Allison .5

Fumble recoveries: Biddle 4, Adam Randolph, Davis 2, Prince, Collins, Beverly, R. Amador, Webb, Edwards, Allison 1

Caused fumbles: Beverly, Davis 3, Amador, Collins, Prince, Biddle 1

Blocked kicks: Davis, Edwards 1

Interceptions: Ad. Randolph, Edwards 1

 

 

 

 

 

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