Published 12:00 am Friday, August 10, 2007

By Nick Bowton
Salisbury Post
Carl Ritchie has no over-the-top football dreams. He doesn’t think he’s an all-everything defensive back who just hasn’t gotten the chance to shine.
Ritchie knows who he is ó a 5-foot-10, 165-pound safety who’s not super fast.
His coach at Salisbury, Joe Pinyan, knows who Ritchie is as well ó a senior captain and a very important part of the Salisbury defense.
“He’s a dream to coach,” Pinyan said. “One of those guys who’s never gonna pile up a bunch of stats, never gonna be flashy. He’s just a quiet team leader. His demeanor, the way he goes about his business, I think kids respect him a lot. They know he’s gonna work. He walks into the weight room, he walks out pouring sweat.
“He studies the game, tries to be the best he can be at it, and he knows what his limitations are.”
Perhaps for that very reason, Pinyan trusts Ritchie as much as any other player.
He knows Ritchie doesn’t plan on overwhelming opposing receivers with size or speed, but he also knows Ritchie works overtime to understand positioning and technique.
That knowledge ó Pinyan said “he’s smarter than any coach I got, just an ultra-smart kid” ó should serve Ritchie well. Salisbury doesn’t return a single starter in the secondary, and as a captain, Ritchie will lead the unit.
“I try to direct as much as I can and keep some of the guys in the right place,” Ritchie said. “Since I’m not that athletic, I gotta know what I’m doing and be in the right place.
“I can’t mess up or I’ll really get beat.”
Pinyan isn’t worried about that.
Sure, Ritchie made mistakes at times last season, when he played a reserve role, but the Hornets wouldn’t rely on Ritchie to fill all-county free safety Doug Campbell’s shoes if he wasn’t capable.
“I would say I don’t know if he’ll ever be as fast or jump as high,” Pinyan said, “but I can assure you he’ll do everything in his power to keep us from getting beat just like Doug did.”
Playing behind Campbell and Boo Blakeney last season, Ritchie said, helped him learn the position. Ritchie had to take Blakeney’s place for the Central Davidson game, and he was named the team’s defensive player of the week.
A year before that, as a sophomore, Ritchie had to make an even tougher replacement appearance ó as the junior varsity quarterback.
“A couple of the guys missed practice or got in trouble, and we didn’t have a quarterback,” Ritchie said. “The Monday of that game, coach put me in at quarterback. I had to learn like 10 plays. I got through the first quarter. Didn’t fumble.
“That was interesting.”
Ritchie’s come a long way since that QB cameo. He put on 10 pounds of muscle since last season and has gone from a skinny, seldom-used reserve to a starter and captain.
He said the nod as a captain surprised him but that he appreciated the honor and is going to “try to give it back to the team.”
“It made me feel good that everybody respects me and stuff,” said Ritchie, whose father, Cliff, also played at Salisbury. “It’s been a lot right at the start, but I hope I can settle down in it and take a leadership role and become a leader ó try to at least.”
Pinyan doesn’t doubt Ritchie can succeed. He’s so confident, in fact, that he’d give Ritchie another shot at quarterback if he had to.
“He’s not gonna strike you as a football player when you see him,” Pinyan said. “But he’s a guy that if we got down to it and our quarterbacks were stinking it up, I wouldn’t hesitate to move him to the offensive side, and I promise you we could give him four to five plays to each side and he could run the offense as good as anybody.”
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Contact Nick Bowton at 704-797-4256 or nbowton@salisburypost.com.

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