2008 Prep Football: East Rowan preview
By David Shaw
Brian Hinson knows what some people are thinking, and he’s out to prove them wrong.
East Rowan’s second-year coach hears the whispers wherever he goes ó at the supermarket, the gas station, even at church.
“Everybody thinks we’re looking at a rough season,” said Hinson, who lost 26 seniors from last fall’s 7-5 team. “That’s OK. When I took this job a year ago, I had one coach in the county tell me that East will have a good team maybe once every five or six years. And last year might have been that year. But I’m looking to show everybody it wasn’t.”
Hinson’s chance to convert the non-believers begins Aug. 29 at Salisbury, where East launches its season. Fans recall how the Mustangs battered SHS in last year’s opener en route to a 4-0 start. The season ended with a disappointing loss to Charlotte Catholic in the first round of the playoffs.
“We started something good last year,” junior tailback Thomas Lowe said. “Now we’ve got to finish it.”
Hinson agrees. He knows East spent 2007 resurrecting a program that had logged a 16-61 record over the seven previous seasons.
“We’re building this program on hard-work ethic,” he said. “Last year was a turning point. Now we’ve got to work even harder to keep it going ó and that’s what I’m excited about.”
He should be. East may be short on talent but long on determination. It’s a young team, one with lots of heart but more holes than the president’s tax plan.
“We all know what we’re doing,” junior lineman Greysen Gordy said. “It’s just that sometimes it doesn’t happen. We’ve got what it takes. Our job is to put it together and make it work.”
It all starts on the offensive line, where East has replaced four of five starters. The lone returnee is junior center Nathan Robbins, a Master-lock lineman who’s been anointed the OL leader.
“Our coach says hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard,” Robbins said. “That’s our motto this year ó to finish every play. The only things wrong right now are little things that can be corrected.”
He’ll be joined on the line by senior tackles Jonathan Belk (5-foot-10, 215 pounds) and Alex Lawson (6-1, 210). Hinson said Belk will make his share of mistakes, “but he’ll make them playing hard.” And he said Lawson is the quickest of East’s offensive linemen.
Left guard John Lohman (5-10, 220) and right guard Gordy (5-10, 245) complete a line that will have to get by on technique and intelligence.
“We don’t have any monsters,” Hinson said. “We’ve got short, sawed-off kids who work hard.”
Juniors Ross Cooper and Josiah Hurst, both JV graduates, will split time at tight end.
The Mustangs’ quarterback derby to replace Shawn Eagle and his 2,046 total yards is a two-horse race. There’s senior Trevor Monroe, a 6-footer who weighs 145 pounds soaking wet and completed his only varsity pass in a mid-season win over Lake Norman last year.
“He knows the offense,” said Hinson. “All we ask is that he not make mistakes and manage the game.”
He’ll be partnered with junior Marquise Weddington, a transfer from North Rowan who was being groomed to follow Cameron Wood.
“Marquise is more athletic that Trevor,” Hinson said. “But he doesn’t have the same understanding of the offense. He’s picking it up quick, though.”
East’s I-formation backfield features Lowe ó the best-kept secret this side of K.P. Parks. A beefed-up junior, he rushed for 1,779 yards and 22 touchdowns a year ago, when he put nine 100-yard games in the books.
“Everybody knows he’s good,” said Hinson. “But they don’t know how good because of K.P. We do.”
Hinson said he believes 190-pound running back Quentin Sifford “has a college football body as a sophomore” and limitless potential.
Junior Sam Edmonds will also get reps along with hard-nosed fullbacks Dominique Simpson (5-10, 175) and Sam Weisensel (5-9, 180).
East has only one proven receiver ó third-year letterman Ben DeCelle. He made 26 receptions for 408 yards and three touchdowns last year. The rest of the field includes sticky-fingered Jordan Moore, returning letterman Keith Leonard and first-year senior Caleb Allen.
The Mustangs’ strength may be a defensive line that’s simply kicking in its stall.
“They’re all physical guys who use their athleticism to make plays,” Hinson said.
Smack in the middle of that line is senior nose guard Wesley Rivers (5-9, 260), the strongest kid in the school and founder of something called “The Juicebox Club.” His three lifts ó bench, squat and power clean ó total 1,230 pounds.
Starting at defensive tackle is Chris Demitraszek, a junior who makes East significantly tougher ó to spell and to stop.
Surprising sophomore Kevin Gillespie (6-0, 225) has worked his way into the defensive tackle equation while senior Jordan Moore (6-0, 190) has claimed the Spur position.
“He’ll line up opposite the tight end,” Hinson explained. “Jordan doesn’t like the weight room, but he has natural strength.”
A pair of unrelated Siffords ó the square-shouldered Quentin and senior Jacob ó are battling for the starting weak-side linebacker slot.
Weisensel will man the middle and Edmonds, whom Hinson says, “isn’t very good-looking but finds a way to make plays,” is penciled in at strong-side linebacker.
Anchoring the secondary is DeCelle, a strong safety who is faster than a cheetah at dinnertime. He picked off three passes and recovered a fumble last season.
“He makes anybody’s backfield better,” Hinson said. “You’ll see him playing college football soon.”
Cornerbacks Paul Jones and Leonard will team with DeCelle along with free safety Weddington.
“We’re a little undersized in the backfield, so we’re gonna have to fly to the ball,” DeCelle said. “We’ve got some good schemes, and we look good playing as a team.”
East’s special teams will include a trio of kicking prospects ó juniors Andrew May and Taylor Owen, along with senior Marc Brackman. May looks like the top punter while DeCelle and Lowe will return kicks and punts.
Hinson knows East Rowan supporters haven’t set the bar too high for the 2008 Mustangs. But after last year, he may have to find a different way to measure success.
“People look at us and see we’ve lost 26 seniors,” Lawson said. “They say we don’t have anything. That irritates me.”
“I understand,” Hinson said. “Winning is kind of contagious, and everybody around here got a taste of it last year. They enjoyed it, the community enjoyed it, the school enjoyed it. This year I think we might sneak up on teams because, once again, nobody’s expecting it.”