Gallagher column: Roaming the county
Roaming the county getting ready for tonight ...
SALISBURY - Usually, by this time of the year, everyone not from West Rowan and Salisbury is sick of hearing about West Rowan and Salisbury.
For years, those two have been heads above the rest of the county. But 2012 will go down as the season they had to share some of the glory, thanks to the resurgence of East Rowan and North Rowan. East beat West, ending its long county win streak and played for the outright North Piedmont Conference championship before losing at Statesville. North is a huge favorite tonight at last-place South Davidson and should double its win total from four last year to eight.
But hold on a minute.
Going into the last night of the regular season, who has the best overall record in the county?
That's right. West Rowan at 8-2.
Who has the best chance at an outright conference title?
That's right. Salisbury, who has the county's second-best record at 7-2.
West Rowan has taken its anger out on the three foes since that East loss, winning by a total of 119-6. And with last-place West Iredell coming in, many expect West to record its third straight shutout.•For Salisbury to be in this position is, well, astonishing.
The decisions by Thomasville in the final two minutes of Salisbury's 43-39 win will be debated for years.
Thomasville had the ball on the 1-yard line with a chance to go up 10. The Bulldogs had a guy named Gabe Brockett, who finished with 366 yards rushing. Salisbury had not come close to stopping him on 50-plus carries. Surely, they'd let him bull over and perhaps sew up the CCC championship in the battle of league unbeatens.
"I thought they'd give it to Brockett," shrugged Salisbury coach Joe Pinyan. "He had run 55 times. Why not one more?"
The Bulldogs decided they'd rather run the clock out and not score, taking a knee. Play-by-play man Mark Loman of WSAT was yelling that he couldn't believe what he was seeing. Why wasn't Thomasville trying to score?
The radio listeners were just as baffled. Are they going to pass up a touchdown and simply give it back to Salisbury? No way.
But as Pinyan reminded us, "Well, we still had to go 98 yards and the chances of that were pretty slim."
Not with Justin Ruffin on your side. He quickly caught a 98-yard scoring pass from Brian Bauk with 1:13 left. Then Thomasville scores with 32 seconds left to lead 39-36.
Pinyan knew the Bulldogs would squib it on the ensuing kickoff and keep it away from Ruffin. Wouldn't they?
"I thought surely they're not going to kick it to Justin Ruffin," Pinyan said. "When they kicked it to him, my jaw dropped. I thought, 'What are they doing?' "
Ruffin took the kickoff to the 40 and Pinyan was in business. With four seconds left, the Hornets scored on a hook-and-ladder for the game-winner. A victory at East Davidson tonight and Salisbury wins an outright crown.
"It was smoke and mirrors, but we did it," Pinyan chuckled.
A little more Ludwig Stadium magic against Thomasville? Don't forget the last time the Bulldogs invaded Salisbury, they were moving in for the winning points when their quarterback spiked the ball on fourth down, giving the Hornets a win.
"We've won a lot of football games in this stadium," Pinyan said. "People are going to question taking a knee and people are going to question kicking to Justin. But while there was some magic, we still had to execute."
Which is why Salisbury can win an outright championship and Thomasville can't.•Carson isn't thinking about championships, just making the playoffs. The Cougars have just three wins and need to beat North Iredell tonight. The Raiders have only a single win but it was a resounding one last week, 30-0 over West Iredell.
Another group of Raiders, South Rowan, has a tall task with the NPC champion Statesville coming in. South has only two wins.
In other games, A.L. Brown goes to Concord for the chance to win The Bell. And don't forget Davie (4-1) has a chance to grab a share of the Central Piedmont 4A title if it can beat undefeated North Davidson at home.•On the air tonight ...
• WSTP 1490 AM will carry West's Senior Night game against West Iredell with Hall of Famer Howard Platt and sidekick Wilson Cherry.
• WSAT 1280 AM will go with Salisbury to Lake Road as we listen to Johnny, (I'm assuming a more calm) Mark, Glenn, Jeff and the boys.
• WRNA 1140 and the "Commissioner" of high school football Carl Ford, will call South's regular-season finale.
Go to a game tonight, folks. And be nice.•Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or firstname.lastname@example.org.