Prep Signing: Salisbury’s Ritchie follows dad to Lenoir-Rhyne
By Ronnie Gallagher
SALISBURY — Ben Ritchie was asked what it was like to be a long snapper.
“It’s hard,” he exclaimed. “Especially the High Point Andrews game.”
Ritchie was referring to a very intense, down-to-the wire playoff thriller where the Hornets made up a 28-point deficit little by little.
“I kept thinking about not messing up and losing the game,” Ritchie grinned.
No worries, Ben.
With the game on the line in the final seconds, Stephen Mazur lined up for what would be the winning field goal. Ritchie’s snap had to be perfect.
So was the kick and Salisbury prevailed 36-35 on its way to a Western Final berth.
It was Ritchie’s calm demeanor on that last play that no one really noticed. But Lenoir-Rhyne saw enough to give him a chance to do it again.
Ritchie will be taking his specialty with him to Hickory next year when he becomes a member of one of the South Atlantic Conference’s top teams in the Bears.
And who was trying to contain his excitement during a signing-day party Wednesday?
Father Cliff, who also played at Salisbury and Lenoir-Rhyne. Cliff was a member of Pete Stout’s 1971 WNCHSAA champions before playing defensive back at L-R.
“Ben and I are probably the only father and son who have won (state) championships in Rowan County,” he noted.
In fact, Ben can credit his dad’s connections for becoming an excellent long snapper.
“I can’t even do it myself,” Cliff chuckled, adding he had a former teammate at L-R come over one day years ago and show Ben the art.
Does Ben remember the first time he tried long-snapping?
“Yeah, it was bad,” he laughed.
“But I kinda liked it. It was fun to do.”
Salisbury coach Joe Pinyan had an open tryout for the job and Ritchie, also the starting tight end, won the position.
“He’s real good at it,” Pinyan said, “and now because of it, he gets to play college football.”
Ben had interest from Division III schools but he has been to Lenoir-Rhyne many times because of his family.
“I went to a football game and toured the campus,” he said. “They have real nice facilities and a real nice weight room.”
Pinyan said it always helps that a high school senior athlete choosing a college is a no-brainer, like in the case of the Ritchies.
“You want those coaches to know they have alumni in the family,” he said.
Playing fooball for Lenoir-Rhyne is just icing on the cake, according to Pinyan.
“Ben was going there anyway,” Pinyan said. “Their coaches were like, ‘He’s a long snapper?’ We’re getting a steal here.’ ”
Before it’s over, the burly Ritchie may be more than that.
“He might fit in at different positions,” Pinyan said. “Maybe he’ll grow some more. They might trim him down and he’ll be a fullback.
“Of course, there’s a pretty good one ahead of him.”
That would be Ike Whitaker, another former Hornet.
“They run the same offense as we do,” the 5-foot-10, 215-pound Ritchie said of the triple option. “I talked to (Whitaker). He was pretty excited I was coming.”
So is the elder Ritchie, who allowed his son to make his own college decision.
“I tried to stay neutral,” Cliff smiled.
Now that the choice is made?
“We’re thrilled he’s going to Lenoir-Rhyne.”