Falcon running back Alex Ball had huge expectations for his senior season. He was already looking at schools to play football at the next level when he tore his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) at a college camp. It seemed as if his football career would be over without playing his senior season.
“I didn’t know when I first got injured. I thought it was just the LCL (lateral collateral ligament), and I would be out for six weeks,” Ball said. “But when I went to the doctor and saw everything, they told me I would not play. I was on medication, so it didn’t sink in right away.”
Ball missed did miss his senior football season, but he will play college football at Presbyterian College.
Head Coach Paul Whitaker was concerned about losing a senior from his varsity football team.
“You hate to see a senior go down like that with a season-ending injury so soon,” Whitaker said.
The team missed Ball, but finished with an 8-4 record, making it to the second round of playoffs for the first time since 2007.
The Falcons saw strong play from senior Cody Jackson, who had more than 1,000 rushing yards for the season, and junior Stephen Perron, who was a North Carolina defensive player of the year. Other key players were four-year varsity players Dustie Fender and quarterback William Crouch.
“You always want your students to develop to be a good student of the game,” Coach Ben Pierson said. “Teams have different chemistry and last fall’s team had great chemistry.”
A number of seniors considered playing football at the college level walking on, but Ball, Taylor Geyer and Brian Albea signed to play.
“It is exciting, very exciting and very rewarding (to have players going on to play college ball,” Coach Barry Lance said. “To see them as a freshmen all the way to where they are playing college ball has been rewarding.”
Lance has seen a number of players get to the next level. With more than 25 years of coaching experience, he has seen players go to colleges like Notre Dame and the University of Florida, Division I schools with much football history.
Jackson did not sign with the other players. Instead he will be following his higher calling of going into Christian ministry by attending Fruitland Baptist Bible College. Then he is plans to go to Liberty University to become a youth pastor.
“I wanted to go with God’s plan and not mine,” Jackson said.
The team will lose key players at almost every position. Returning players will be Dante Padilla, Davis Fisher, Perron,Tanner Bullock and Shauq Rospell.
“I think going to the second round of playoffs sparked some drive in our players to continue,” Pierson said.
Whitaker agreed: “Last year’s group of seniors set the bar very high for next year.”
With high expectations for next season, Pierson has already organized workouts for the summer and spring to get players ready for next fall.
Geyer signed to play wide receiver and punter at Emory and Henry College in Virginia, and Brian Albea signed to play tackle at Brevard College.
Geyer knew after his first visit that Emory and Henry was the school he wanted to play for because the team runs a fast, aggressive spread offense that relies on passing plays.
“I am ready for a new football atmosphere, and I am looking forward to meeting new people,” Geyer said.
Geyer had offers from four other Division III schools.
Albea, a tackle for the Falcons, said he was surprised by the offer to play college football at Brevard College. He also talked with coaches from Carson-Newman and Mars Hill.
“Since I didn’t play football until eighth grade, I was surprised I would get to play four more years,” he said. “I like the way the team is set up. Like West, it is a family team,” Albea said.
Albea has enjoyed his high school football career.
“Getting to start on varsity for three years and having a good senior year going to the playoffs was a good experience,” Albea said. “I got to be a team captain my junior and senior year, and it was a good experience getting to know my teammates and coaches like family. Coach (Paul) Whitaker really cared about us.”
By Grant McIntyre