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Offensive player of the year: North's Daniel Griffith

By Bret Strelow

Salisbury Post

Daniel Griffith completed five passes in 24 attempts last season as Keegan Linza’s backup.

Linza’s summertime decision to give up football led to a lighthearted conversation between Griffith and North Rowan coach Avery Cutshaw.

“I can remember him telling me, ‘Coach, I want to be the quarterback, but I don’t want to be remembered as the worst quarterback in Rowan County,’ ” Cutshaw recalled.

Griffith no longer needs to worry about his legacy.

A panel of writers and coaches selected him as the county’s offensive player of the year for 2006.

He broke the county record for passing yards in a regular season and finished No. 2 in terms of single-season total offense counting playoff games.

“If I got the chance, I knew what I could do,” Griffith said. “I believe just working hard during the summer, not knowing where I was going to be, helped me out.”

Griffith spent more time as a wide receiver in 2005, when he caught 19 passes for 277 yards and four touchdowns. He also threw for 136 yards, three interceptions and one touchdown.

Griffith said his experience as a receiver helped him read defensive coverages better as a quarterback. He also benefitted from outside options such as all-county wideouts Bryson Gaymon and Lathan Charleston.

Griffith threw for 2,810 yards and 24 touchdowns in 13 games for North, which reached the second round of the playoffs. Former North quarterback Alfonzo Miller had a county-record 3,773 yards of total offense in 2001, and Griffith moved into second place with his mark of 3,275.

“He’s what you call a real, true leader,” Gaymon said.

Griffith’s touchdown run with 5:38 left against Lexington propelled North to a 38-32 victory, and he carried the ball 24 times in a 12-0 win against East Davidson. He broke Mitch Ellis’ regular-season record for passing yards in the finale against Salisbury.

Ellis had 2,358 yards in 1994, and Griffith finished with 2,412.

“We knew he had the capability of being a great quarterback and leader,” Cutshaw said. “The kids liked him, so he wasn’t going to be a problem with his leadership skills.”

Ellis attended the Cavaliers’ playoff opener against Surry Central and presented Griffith with a game ball before the opening kickoff.

Ellis even held up an old North Rowan jersey as he posed for pictures. Griffith responded with the best outing of his career — he threw for 319 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for another score in a 36-28 victory.

Only four players in county history have passed for more yards in a game, and all four were North quarterbacks.

“I respect the people that came before me as far as North Rowan history goes,” Griffith said. “It’s just an honor to be mentioned with those types of players.

“It was pressure, but I knew what I could do. I put more pressure on myself than anybody, but I think I handled the pressure well.”

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Contact Bret Strelow at 704-797-4258 or bstrelow@salisburypost.com.

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