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Trio of sophomores sensational

By Nick Bowton

Salisbury Post

South Rowan won three games this past season. East Rowan won two. Carson? Didn’t win a single game as a first-year program.

All three teams, however, have reason to expect more success in 2006-07. Each team has a player to build a program around, and each of those players is a sophomore.

South’s Josh Wike, East’s Ben DeCelle and Carson’s Daniel Yates all made the all-county team this year. Wike played tailback at South and led the team in rushing with 633 yards. DeCelle played a handful of positions at East and was probably the team’s best all-around player. Yates emerged late in the season as Carson’s go-to guy at tailback.

“This year when we got together, from the get-go I didn’t know these kids, they didn’t know me, they didn’t even know each other,” Carson coach Mark Woody said. “But when you get ’em out on the field, certain kids stand out immediately. He was one that stood out to us back in spring workouts.

“He’s a kid that could be a defensive player, could be an offensive player other places. He’s just a special kid. If you’re gonna be good, you have to have some kids like Daniel.”

In Yates, Carson had a punter, punt returner, kick returner and tailback. All of those roles developed after he started the season as a fullback blocking for senior Monta Achi.

When Achi hurt his ankle later in the season, Yates took over as tailback and gained 362 of his 444 yards in the final four games.

At South, Wike didn’t have to wait to emerge as the team’s top offensive threat. He carried the ball 73 times in the first three games of the season — an average of 24.3 carries per game.

Wike missed two games and part of a third because of a shoulder injury, and South was a different team without him in the lineup.

“When he was on that field, the things that he could do as a sophomore were amazing,” South coach Jason Rollins said. “He was able to take things to the next level as a sophomore that a lot of kids can’t do.

“His work ethic is unbelievable. Josh is just a kid that he will not say a word. He’s very humble, very quiet. He’s not showboater. That’s what I like about him.”

While Yates and Wike played primarily at tailback, DeCelle gave East a multiple threat. He started the season as a receiver and free safety. Then he played some strong safety. He also lined up at linebacker depending on matchups and finished the season as a tailback.

Jim Crawley, whose contract wasn’t renewed at East, said he’d have DeCelle somewhere in the backfield if he was still coaching because DeCelle needs the ball in his hands. DeCelle said he’ll play wherever he can help the team. Wherever that is, he’s already accepted a role as a leader — regardless of whether he’s a sophomore or a senior.

“When they told me I was playing varsity, I was like, that’s cool, I’ll get to come up, maybe get some PT and hopefully do something good this season,” he said. “Then I just ended up being a leader by the end of the season, leading by example. I accepted it. I realized it’s a role I needed to take on.”

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Contact Nick Bowton at 704-797-4256 or nbowton@salisburypost.com.

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