In return from COVID-19 pause, Chatham Central trounced by visiting North Rowan

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BEAR CREEK — Malachi Moore swallowed the handoff, then plunged into the gut of the defense, desperate to find the end zone. The Chatham Central High School junior fought and stumbled his way through a gaggle of defenders. When the play was finished, he glanced up and found a referee with both arms raised high, signaling a touchdown.

Moore’s third-quarter scoring dive was an impressive display of grit and athleticism, and a highlight for the Chatham Central Bears, who hadn’t played a football game in more than two weeks due to a team pause related to COVID-19.

Unfortunately — on Friday night against the North Rowan Cavaliers — Moore’s score was one of the few times when the masked Chatham Central fans got the chance to throw their full weight behind cheering for their team.

On a surprisingly frigid March evening at Chatham Central’s football stadium, the Bears were thoroughly walloped by the visiting Cavaliers, 56-8.

“We have to learn from it, for one,” Bears’ head coach Sherman Howze said. “Just a game where you really just look at the film and get rid of it. And then get ready for next week. ... I’m still satisfied with my kids, man. They didn’t give up. We had some bad breakdowns, a lot of missed tackles and everything. But we’re still young. I’m not mad. Not upset about anything. It is what it is, right?”

Perhaps the biggest difference in the game was that the Cavaliers were equipped with the services of Zay Davis and the Bears were not. After fumbling the ball near the goal-line in the first quarter, Davis shifted his play into extra gear for North Rowan.

On the Bears’ ensuing possession, they seemed to be piecing together the makings of a decent drive. They had marched 22 yards in four plays. But on the fifth play, senior quarterback Michael Moore dropped back and fired. Instead of finding a fellow Bear, the ball landed in the mitts of an opportunistic Davis, who picked off the pass and sprinted 44 yards down the sideline before waltzing into the endzone untouched.

“My coach always says, ‘When you mess up, you mess up 100%, and you keep going.’ So, I kept going,” Davis said. “Couple of plays later, I caught me one and seen straight green field. … I fumbled, so I owed my team that touchdown.”

Davis would intercept another pass in the third quarter, leaping up – with his baggy long white sleeves covered in mud – to catch a jump ball lofted up by Moore. On offense, the senior Cavalier finished the day with 128 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries. Davis’ first rushing score of the day came late in the second quarter, and North Rowan entered halftime with a 34-0 lead.

The game seemed out of reach at that point, but Chatham Central came out in the third quarter with some newfound focus. The Bears put together a 10-play, 72-yard drive that was assisted by a pair of penalties from the Cavaliers. Malachi Moore’s score capped the drive off, and Michael Moore found Tyler Oldham with a short pass for a successful two-point conversion.

That segment of the game film is one that Howze won’t be throwing out.

“We blocked. We caught the ball. We did what we were supposed to do,” Howze said. “And if we sustained drives like that throughout the game, there’s a different score on that board.”

Malachi Moore finished the day with 31 yards of offense on 10 touches. Michael Moore ran for 17 yards and completed 14-of-27 passes for 102 yards. Parker Crowley was his leading receiver, hauling in five catches for 47 yards.

While momentum seemed to briefly be on the Bears’ side after that score, the Cavaliers struck back quickly, covering 64 yards in just five plays to add to their scoring total. Davis’ second interception ended the next Bears’ drive, and then he scored on a three-yard dash and converted a two-point conversion for good measure, putting the Cavaliers up 50-8.

On the final play of the game, North Rowan cornerback Zion Milton iced it by picking off Moore and running it back 62 yards for an additional Cavaliers’ touchdown.

In all, North Rowan’s defense came up with three turnovers. On offense, the Cavaliers rushed for 235 yards and quarterback Kyree Sims passed for 111 yards and two touchdowns. His lone interception was picked off by Central’s Haisten Paige in the second quarter.

The defeat stung for Howze, but he doesn’t want the feeling to linger. He seemed eager to get his team refocused and ready for its next challenge.

Of Chatham Central’s 26-man roster, 10 of those players are freshmen or sophomores, and Howze says that several others are just playing organized football for the first time. That made the two-week lay-off due to COVID-19 sting a bit more, because the Bears had the chance to build some real chemistry and cohesion after beating Albemarle to open the season.

“It was tough, because you lose time. And plus, you lose that momentum from that first win. You know, that momentum could have took us a long way,” Howze said. “But you know, I’m happy with the results. I mean, I’m not happy with what happened tonight. But the better team just showed up. I think we prepared. We had a good week of practice, but it just didn’t show on the field.”

Now, with a 1-1 record, Chatham Central has just three games left, but still has a chance to go 4-1 and make the postseason.

The road to that reality begins on March 26, at South Stanly.

“We got to learn how to tackle, you know, the proper way. They know how to tackle, but it’s just getting those hats to the ball,” Howze said. “South Stanly is a really good team, very coached-up, very disciplined. Where we fit in, is how we play. We can’t dictate how they play, but we can dictate the outcome of the game.”


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