2008 Prep Football: Salisbury preview
By Ronnie Gallagher
Last season, Joe Pinyan was quick to point out that Lexington, not his Salisbury team, was the favorite to win the Central Carolina Conference.
When the season was over? Salisbury, not Lexington, was tied with West Davidson and East Davidson in first place, the fifth straight season Pinyan had brought a title back to Lincolnton Road.
Last week, Pinyan was asked to name the 2008 favorite in the CCC race.
“We realize we’re chasing Lexington,” he said.
Pinyan insists that it’s true. He insists the Hornets are in a rebuilding mode.
Know what? On paper, it appears to be true. Salisbury has the fewest seniors ó only 16 ó since Pinyan arrived in 2003.
He likes to two-platoon, but he might not have that luxury.
“If we win six games, we’ve done a great job of shuffling the deck,” Pinyan said.
He starts with three quarterbacks: sophomore John Knox, junior Linares Pagan and senior O’Bryan Graham.
The 5-foot-10, 165-pound Knox is the leader because of his experience in 2007.
“He started down the stretch, so he knows the offense,” Pinyan said. “John can do a lot of different things, and he makes smart decisions. But he’s still growing up. He’s a sophomore, and we have to remember that.”
Graham played some quarterback for North Rowan before transferring. Pinyan calls him “an athlete at quarterback” who can play numerous positions.
“He runs the option a little quicker and looks good doing it,” Pinyan said. “He’s been a surprise. I didn’t think he’d catch on as quickly as he has.”
Pagan is a transfer from North Mecklenburg who can throw it well. He is learning the option.
“He’s getting better every day,” Pinyan said.
The coach used to cringe when his quarterback ran his wishbone, but he added there’s less cringing with three good signal-callers.
“It’s a pretty good group,” Pinyan said. “Once the other two learn the offense, John has to work harder to keep the job. That’s a healthy thing.”
Pinyan used to have running backs galore. He says the backfield isn’t as deep this year.
Pinyan does have the two best returning runners in the CCC in Dario Hamilton and A.J. Ford. They combined for more than 2,000 yards last year, steering a bruising ground attack that averaged 350 per game.
Hamilton, who finished with 1,109 yards and 18 touchdowns, is explosive in the open field. He was all-CCC and all-county.
“When the lights come on, Dario’s at his best,” Pinyan said of his 5-11, 185-pound speedster. “He controls how good he wants to be.”
The 5-11, 200-pound Ford ran for 952 yards. The all-county performer is a three-year starter.
“We’re looking for a breakout season,” Pinyan said. “He has always been good, but we’re looking for him to be great.”
Junior Ike Whitaker (5-8, 185) could be destined for star status.
“He’s like a bull in a china shop,” Pinyan laughed. “He’s pretty rambunctious. Pound for pound, he’s the strongest kid on the team. He’s become a vocal leader. When he speaks, everybody listens.”
The fourth back could be a combination of sophomore Romar Morris, Graham and freshmen Dominique Dismuke and Dejoun Jones.
“Romar is an all-county sprinter,” Pinyan noted. “He’ll be a great player for us at running back or wide receiver. He’s too good of an athlete to sit on the bench.”
Blocking will be a talented group of upperclassmen, including returning starter and senior Tory Turner (5-11, 240). He’ll join Eric So (5-11, 260), Ronald Phillips (6-0, 230), Tommy Coggin (6-0, 230) and Ian Lance (6-1, 230).
Jamel Wallace, Bryce Evans, Phillip Ledbetter and Donovan Bush can also see time on the line.
Phillips could be the center, but Pinyan said they’re all learning every position.
“We have no depth,” he said. “I have no idea who will start where. Turner is the guy they’ll look to. He’s the most athletic and played the most in that group.”
Receivers include Chris Chavis, D.J. Lewis, Forrest Wilkins and Jamerson Moseby.
Frankie Cardelle returns as the kicker.
Pinyan calls his defensive line “huge.”
There is 6-4, 385-pound Kiontae Rankin. There is 6-5, 230-pound Justin Adkins. There is 6-3, 285-pound Jason Hayes.
“We want Kiontae to clog the middle,” Pinyan said. “We hope he causes havoc in the backfield. Hayes can be one of the most dominating figures in Rowan County football if he applies himself.”
Backups include Terrell McElrath, Trenton Nobles, Daniel Raynor, Albert Shaver and Norris Rankin.
At the all-important Hornet position (part linebacker, end and strong safety) is talented 6-3, 175-pound Darien Rankin.
“If we’ll quit messing with him, he’ll be a great player,” Pinyan smiled. “We’ll be doing him a great favor if we leave him (at one position).”
Graham, Tre Jackson, Patrick Evans and Justin Franklin are also Hornets.
Senior Pierre Jimenez and junior Stephen Carter must replace Brandon Clodfelter’s aggressiveness at linebacker.
“Carter’s starting to fit the mold,” Pinyan said. “He’ll do a great job.”
Chris Bruce, Quadrian Horne, Joseph Jones and Si Vue are all linebackers.
Martin Hosch-Cathcart leads the secondary. Pinyan has high praise for the returning all-county and all-CCC cornerback.
“He’s got the ability to be a big-time player and play at the next level,” Pinyan said.
Kendred Alexander, Jeremiah Stockdale, Patrick Evans, Joseph Figueroa, Cordera Stanley, Tyree Oglesby and Dominique Phillips are also secondary possibilities.
After going over the team’s prospects, Pinyan softened his stance on his chances of winning a sixth straight CCC title. Sort of.
“We expect to go 11-0,” he said. “But Lexington, far and away, is the team to beat. I’m not going to tell you they’re the champions. But we’ve got to be realistic. They’re the frontrunners.”
Get back with Pinyan after the regular-season finale. The Hornets’ depth chart might not be what it usually is, but the talent level of the players in camp certainly is.