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All-county football team

By Mike London

Salisbury Post

It’s a safe bet Salisbury quarterback Cordarius Miller wasn’t on the minds of many voters when All-Rowan County ballots were first passed out to six head coaches and four Post sportswriters.

Given Miller’s unimposing individual numbers — 289 yards rushing, 61 passing — some fans may have passed out when they heard the senior claimed a spot on the 31-man all-county team for 2006.

But everything can’t be measured by numbers, and after Salisbury coach Joe Pinyan explained the rest of the story, Miller prevailed in a close race with the other QB nominees: West’s Jamel Carpenter and East’s Wayne Parker.

North’s Daniel Griffith wasn’t considered at quarterback because he’s the Rowan County Offensive Player of the Year.

“You probably think I’m crazy for nominating Cordarius because he wasn’t even the starter for our team every game,” Pinyan said of Miller, who shared signal-calling duties with Derrick Parker. “But if there was an unselfish award, Cordarius would win it. Quarterback’s the limelight position, but Cordarius didn’t mind moving to play receiver or running back. Whatever gave us the best chance to win.”

Miller operated Salisbury’s wishbone offense masterfully, handing to fullback Robbie Pulliam or pitching to halfbacks such as Dario Hamilton and Ibn Ali. He made enough smart decisions that the Hornets rushed for nearly 3,400 yards and won two playoff games.

“There’s more to playing quarterback than passing, and Cordarius was a great QB for our offense and a big reason we won 20 games the last two years,” Pinyan said.

Pinyan placed nine players on the all-county team, but he was most thrilled with Miller’s upset. Miller drew five votes to three for Carpenter and two for Parker.

“I’ve seen pictures of Cordarius when he was a chubby YFL lineman in the fourth grade,” Pinyan said. “Now he’s come full-circle.”

Now he’s all-county.

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West matched Salisbury’s nine selections. North produced seven. South had a surprising four. East and Carson had one each.

Miller, a first-time selection, was part of a trend. There were just five repeaters from 2005 — defensive player of the year Tristan Dorty of West, North defensive lineman Steven Hunter, West punter Ben Erdman (the kicker last year), Salisbury defensive lineman Preston Everhart and West offensive lineman David Melton.

Salisbury kicker Zach Collins, who decided three games with boots, returned to all-county status after making it for the first time as a sophomore in 2004.

It’s a young all-county team with five sophomores and one freshman.

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Youngest of the newcomers is West freshman tailback K.P. Parks, who led the county with 1,721 rushing yards and 23 TDs.

Parks could make all-county four times, a feat accomplished only by Jeff Chambers (North), Danny Misenheimer (East) and Cal Hayes Jr. (East).

When West lost its projected fullback for the year, coaches switched tailback Mike McGorda to fullback and rushed Parks into the starting tailback job. Parks never gave them any reason to regret the promotion.

“I figured to be coming off the bench getting like six carries a game this year, and that was gonna be all right with me,” Parks said. “But it turned into a real good thing.”

Parks and Salisbury’s Hamilton, a sophomore who sped for 953 rushing yards and hardly missed a beat after dislocating a kneecap, were unanimous picks for the three-man backfield. McGorda, who pounded for 1,234 yards, claimed the third running back spot with seven votes.

Griffith’s young receivers — junior Bryson Gaymon and sophomore Lathan Charleston — were landslide choices for the two wideout spots. Gaymon made 56 catches for 1,026 yards. Charleston’s 31 receptions included three touchdowns in a playoff battle with Surry Central.

Melton, a Shrine Bowl guard, was the only unanimous choice on the offensive line. Salisbury center Anthony Evans and North left tackle Luke Smith attracted eight votes each.

North coach Avery Cutshaw pointed out the 6-foot-5 Smith — possibly the first player to show up for the all-county picture wearing cowboy boots — protected Griffith’s blind side on all those pass completions.

West’s towering Austin Lowe (115 knockdowns) and South leader John Welch landed the last two O-line spots.

One “utility” player is always added on each side of the ball. There was a tie in the voting for that spot between two sophomores — Carson’s Daniel Yates and South’s Josh Wike.

Wike was South’s key offensive player, rushing for more than 600 yards despite missing two games with a bad shoulder. He had huge kickoff returns for TDs in two CPC wins.

Yates was called “simply our best player” by Carson coach Mark Woody. Yates led Carson’s running game, was an effective punter and returner and earned his place as the new school’s first all-county football selection.

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Dorty’s forceful Shrine Bowl season made him a lock for Rowan County Defensive Player of the Year honors and removed him from consideration for one of four D-line spots.

Dorty’s explosive running mate Maurice Lyerly, who had 10 sacks, and Hunter, North’s 315-pound run-stopper, were unanimous choices.

“Steven was our main guy,” Cutshaw said. “You couldn’t move him.”

Salisbury’s Everhart, whom Pinyan called the “spirit of our defense,” and imposing Gordon Witte (6-6, 270) nailed down the other two line berths, but there was plenty of support for West’s Chandler Turner (20 tackles for loss) and North’s over-achieving Grey Walker (10 sacks).

Turner, who also forced eight fumbles and made 100 stops, edged Walker as the “utility” defensive player.

The voting splintered at linebacker more than any position.

Salisbury’s Russell Davis, who has a non-stop motor and led his team in tackles, paced the voting. West’s Willie Sherrill (nine sacks, two interceptions for TDs) was the other clear-cut pick.

Two South linebackers — aggressive senior Jerek Cannon and junior Derek Davis — tied with North’s cerebral Chris Johnston for the third spot with four votes each.

Cannon was South’s defensive leader from the first practice, while Davis was sensational down the stretch. Johnston, who returned an interception for a TD against Lexington, got lots of support from coaches after Cutshaw pleaded, “If Chris went out, we couldn’t even get lined up.”

Picking four DBs from a slate of 11 good candidates was no picnic.

Diminutive corner Demarcus “Boo” Blakeney, who made season-changing plays for Salisbury, and North’s indestructible safety Richie Hinson led the voting. Pinyan proclaimed Blakeney the best DB on the ballot. Cutshaw laughed out loud and responded, “Well, we all have our own opinions.”

Blakeney and Hinson were unanimous.

East safety Ben DeCelle was next. He was the team MVP, played multiple positions on offense and defense and had a kickoff-return TD against North.

Salisbury safety Doug Campbell was brilliant during the Hornets’ late push and had an interception return for a TD in the playoffs.

West free safety Justin Avery, who had a county-high seven picks and two TD-saving stops against Salisbury, and corner Justin Lane, arguably South’s best all-round player, drew several votes but not enough.

Avery, Lane and Walker weren’t the only standouts left off. Linebackers Brandon Clodfelter (Salisbury), Aaron Trexler (East) and Dustin Craft (Carson) made strong cases.

So did four players who made the 2005 all-county team but didn’t attract the necessary votes to repeat. They were North lineman Daniel Overcash, who often went both ways, Salisbury “Hornet” Nathaniel Neptune, North running back Justin Nunn and West center Larry Carpenter.

All-county teams have been chosen for decades. The formula for picking the perfect squad has yet to be discovered, but we’ll try again in 2007.

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Contact Mike London at 704-797-4259 or mlondon@salisburypost.com.

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