The message North High’s football coaches had for their team after an 0-3 start was that one, two or even three games don’t make a season.
But one game can sure make a statement, and the Stars (2-3) made a big one with a 36-0 domination of West (2-2) in Oildale on Friday night. The Vikings were without bellcow running back L.J. Laulu, who was dressed but remained on the sideline. The Stars didn’t have starting quarterback Michael Doten.
Shannon Ferguson, North’s senior backup quarterback, stepped up and made all the difference. He was perfect on 10 passes, racking up two passing touchdowns and 220 yards. He also ran for 31 yards and a score.
“It’s amazing,” North assistant head coach Chris Lucas said. “We tell these young men, ‘next man up.’ … (Ferguson) showed that he’s an athlete and a gamer.”
It didn’t take long for anyone to realize what Ferguson could do, as he hit James Johnson 36 yards down field on the first play from scrimmage, already putting North in West territory. Running back Chris Romero ran it in from the 1-yard line to give North a 7-0 lead fewer than three minutes into the game.
Five of Ferguson’s 10 passes on the night went for more than 22 yards. He bought time in the backfield, letting his receivers burn West’s secondary deep.
“He stepped up at quarterback,” Romero said. “It felt really good. We’re proud of him. He looked good doing it.”
A jump ball to Johnson in the back right of the end zone put North ahead 13-0 late in the first quarter. Another jump ball, this time to tight end Michael Hunter, from 22 yards out, gave the Stars a 21-0 advantage in the third quarter. Hunter ripped the ball away from the defender before dragging him into the end zone.
Facing a third-and-29 from his own 31-yard line, Ferguson completed a 58-yard pass to Romero over the middle of the field. It set up 2-yard scoring run for Ferguson late in the third. A 31-yard completion to Justin Turner paved the way for North’s final score, a Romero run, and a running clock with 10 minutes left in the game.
“If the passing attack can attack them, then that’s what we’ll do,” Lucas said.
When North started the year 0-3, the coaches told the players that they were the best 0-3 school in the Central Section. The Stars could run the table on its next seven opponents, the coaches said.
With a 29-26 road win against Wasco last week and a statement win over West, the Stars have shrugged off the slow start.
“When they want to play and they desire and they're willing to play, they’ll play,” Lucas said.
Doten should return from a separated shoulder to face Highland after North’s bye week, Lucas said.