Prep Football: East Rowan notebook
This is the fifth of eight features on area football practices.
Today: East Rowan
Saturday: South Rowan
By Mike London
GRANITE QUARRY ó As a sophomore, East Rowan junior Thomas Lowe posted the third-highest season rushing total in county history with 1,779 yards.
Lowe is a great bet to shatter the school career record as a junior. Cal Hayes Jr. rushed for 2,698 yards from 1998-2001.
Lowe is even thicker and stronger than last year and 10 pounds heavier, but if he’s going to pound for those 920 yards he needs for the record and the 1,500 or so yards he must accumulate if East is going to match last year’s 7-5 showing, a new offensive line has to come together in front of him.
“When we started, probably the O-line was the biggest question mark because while we inherited some good ones last year, now we’ve lost four out of five starters,” head coach Brian Hinson said. “Nathan Robbins will have to be the anchor. He’s the guy who understands everyone’s responsibilities.”
Robbins started at center as a sophomore, alongside veterans Cody Trexler, Josh Eury, Josh Patch and C.J. Gordy. Now Robbins, squarely built at 5-foot-11, 260 pounds and a good track man in the throws, is busy introducing himself to a new set of friends.
“It’s definitely a bigger role for me as the most experienced guy, but we’ve also got some new starters who are seniors,” Robbins said. “We have to regroup a little bit, but we’re doing pretty good because of Coach (Gary) Bass.”
Bass, who played at Catawba not long ago, produced an O-line last year that helped the Mustangs pile up 2,698 yards rushing and 1,576 passing.
East was slowed late last season by West Rowan, Statesville and playoff opponent Charlotte Catholic, but it still posted its best record this century and averaged 27.3 points a game, the school’s best offensive numbers since 1998.
While Hinson described East’s recent scrimmage with Asheboro as “disappointing,” it should be noted Lowe wasn’t in action.
That makes a difference.
Even without Lowe running the ball, the the new O-line, which will likely include Jonathan Belk, John Lohman, Greyson Gordy and Alex Lawson, was a bright spot in the scrimmage and appears to be progressing ahead of schedule.
Hinson was particularly pleased with Lohman.
“When we watched film, two or three guys already came very close to grading out,” Robbins said. “Coach Bass had us coming off the ball with some intensity, and we gained yards when we ran.”
Lawson, who was a difference-making defensive lineman as a junior, is a college prospect at 6-3, 220, and will see a lot of action both ways.
There are always surprises in the preseason, and the emergence of sophomore Kevin Gillespie on the defensive line has freed up Lawson to help out on offense.
“For someone playing offense for the first time, Alex is doing great,” Robbins said.
Robbins is asked if the Mustangs will do well again just about every time he walks down the street.
Without quarterback Shawn Eagle, kicker Kenny Barnes and those O-linemen success won’t be easy to duplicate, but Robbins has a standard answer.
“Everyone asks me if we can do as good, and I tell them we expect to do better,” he said. “We won seven, so let’s win eight or nine. We went one round in the playoffs, so let’s go farther. Your goal has got to be to always keep improving.”
Robbins is related to Phil and Leonard Robbins, who impacted East baseball and basketball in the 1960s, as well as Jake Robbins, a Myers Park pitcher who briefly reached the majors with Cleveland in 2004 and saved a lot of Triple-A games.
“I’ve heard all their stories,” Nathan said with a laugh. “But I’m trying to get the Robbins name out there in football.”
HIGHS AND LOWES: Lowe, who broke East’s single-season rushing record in only his eighth varsity game, participated in his first contact drills on Thursday.
He ran over some people.
SCRIMMAGES: Hinson said the Asheboro scrimmage “coulda been better,” but he was optimistic.
“I saw two good things,” he said. “First, all the mistakes we made are correctable.
“Second, the kids were disappointed. There were past years when they wouldn’t have cared. Now they do care, and it showed. They want to prove they’re better than that.”
East, which doesn’t open until Aug. 29 at Salisbury, scrimmages Southern Lee team at home next Wednesday.
EARLY TO BED: East practices are a 7-9 a.m. affair, and Hinson jokingly talked about turning on the heater in his car on the way in.
“I like practicing at this time, and I won’t ever change it,” he said. “It’s ideal for coaches with families, and I like to see my daughter before bedtime.”
nFULL HOUSE: Former Catawba standout James House is helping coach defensive ends and has been reunited with Hinson.
Hinson was an assistant coach at North Rowan when House was starring for the Cavaliers as a tight end and on the defensive line.
“He’s a good guy,” Hinson said. “We’re fortunate to have him with us.”
nQB QUESTION: It was assumed when junior Marquise Weddington transferred from North Rowan to East he would be the starting quarterback, but senior Trevor Monroe, who backed up Eagle last season, is still in the running for the starting position.
Hinson is convinced the athletic Weddington has a “chance to be really special,” but Monroe, a thin but competitive senior, has been in the program longer and has a better grasp of the offense at this point.
The scrimmage with Southern Lee may decide things.
nNAME TO KNOW: East’s all-county safety Ben DeCelle said the big surprise this year could be linebacker Sam Edmonds.
“He had a heck of a year on jayvee, and he ain’t scared of anything,” DeCelle said.
nHAPPY ANNIVERSARY: Like West Rowan, East Rowan is entering its 50th football season.
This will be No. 51 for North Rowan and No. 48 for South Rowan.