2008 Prep Football: South Rowan preview
By Mike London
LANDIS ó South Rowan was 3-8 in 2006 and 3-8 again in 2007, but third-year coach Jason Rollins is certain the program doesn’t need a new GPS system.
He says the Raiders are headed in the right direction and insists comparing 2006 to 2007 is like comparing David Carr to Tom Brady.
“People who don’t know the game say 3-8 is 3-8,” Rollins said. “People who do know the game saw us climb a mountain last year.”
South definitely got buried by fewer avalanches. Statistically, the Raiders dramatically improved in every aspect.
South gave up a school-record 40.6 points a game in 2006. It pared that to 25.3 ppg last year. Even if you’re not a math major, it’s easy to calculate South gave up two fewer TDs per outing.
South surrendered 40-plus points three times in 2007, but that was nothing after being shredded for 50-plus points six times in 2006.
Offensively, South’s production soared from 8.7 points a game in 2006 to 20.0 points per game in 2007.
While it’s technically true that 3-8 is 3-8, South was about four TDs per game better in 2007 than 2006.
On an average night, South lost 25-20 instead of 41-9.
Northwest Cabarrus, Mooresville, Statesville and West Rowan pounced on South, but the Raiders were in position at halftime to win the other four games they lost.
South trailed Salisbury 10-7 at the break and trailed West Iredell 6-2.
South led rivals A.L. Brown and East Rowan at halftime. Win either of the latter two games and it changes perceptions about the season.
“We made a lot of moves with our sophomores last year,” Rollins said. “There were times I was smacking myself in the head for bringing them up because Fridays can be tough on sophomores and they make mistakes. But they got experience, and 3-8 or whatever, I was very excited about what I saw. Our guys competed, and we competed in a very tough league.”
South has an exceptional junior class. A half-dozen studs were varsity regulars last season. The rest of their classmates join them this year after a strong jayvee season.
There will also be at least one varsity sophomore ó back Mark McDaniel, the lone varsity freshman last season.
“For two years, basically, we’ve got this team,” Rollins said. “We’ve got a huge junior class, an unbelievable class.”
Not that South is settling for a wait-until-next-year approach.
It wouldn’t be fair to the seniors for South coaches to spend all their time daydreaming about the future, and this year is important. Rollins wants to make more strides in preparation for a shot at contending for the NPC championship in 2009.
“Our goal this season is to establish a winning record and make the playoffs,” Rollins said.
“We’ve been a bubble team the past two years, but we want to make the playoffs this season, and if we don’t it’s going to very disappointing.”
Senior offensive lineman Daniel Donaldson, linebacker/offensive lineman Joe Gutierrez and linebacker/QB Reid Shaver are leaders.
“They have seen the ups and downs the program has had,” Rollins said.
On offense, South will run the triple option and trust Blake Houston (backed by Shaver) to make the right decisions.
Houston is a throwback athlete, a quarterback/point guard/center fielder who plays everything and plays it well.
He threw for 1,074 yards and had 12 TD passes as a varsity sophomore to offset 14 interceptions. Houston is unlikely to throw as often in 2008, but his rushing numbers could be nice.
Shaver was 8-for-10 for 125 yards and a TD last season.
The fullback is the meat-and-potatoes guy in the triple option, and 190-pound junior Deandre Harris, who rumbled for 629 yards and five TDs, is a prototype workhorse.
The wingbacks will be senior Josh Wike, who has accumulated 1,162 rushing yards and six rushing TDs in two varsity seasons, and junior Quan Glaspy.
“Wike took a beating when he was a sophomore because we couldn’t block a lot of people,” Rollins said. “I couldn’t blame him for being a little tentative at times last year.”
Wike could have a big senior year running behind a line that has depth.
“We’re three-deep on the O-line now,” Rollins said. “It’s been fierce competition back and forth out there every day.”
Steve Erwin (205) figures to be a horse for the group, probably at center, along with Donaldson (220). There’s some size with Zach Howell (265), Jeffrey Daniels (275), Adam Nann (275) and Justin Hall (270), to name just a few. Sophomore Brent Samuels is a name to know down the road.
The wideouts are back.
Senior Anthony Bowles made six catches, including a TD, while all-county B.J. Grant enjoyed a phenomenal sophomore season. He had 35 catches for 617 yards and eight TDs. All eight of his TDs came in NPC games.
Dylan Walker, also a punter, will contribute as a wideout. Sophomore Preston Penninger is a very promising punter, and Rollins is confident he can locate a soccer player who can kick PATs.
One of the all-round athletes such as Houston or Shaver might have to handle kickoffs.
New defensive coordinator Barry Lipscomb has a chance to improve on last year’s numbers with a group headed by all-county beast Kelsey Robinson, who is likely to be paired with Erwin at inside positions on the defensive line.
“They’re both strong as oxen,” Rollins said. “Kelsey’s up to 280 pounds, but he’s just as fast as last year. He’s been giving our O-linemen a rough time.”
Moving from linebacker, touted junior Cadarreus Mason (225) will be a stud at one defensive end. Senior Jabin Wilson (210) and Kyle Rolla (200) are leading candidates to start on the other side.
Senior Dakota Walker (190) is an experienced linebacker who joins Shaver (180) and hustler Jacob Baker (170). Josh Suber (195) is a talented junior, and Gutierrez (190) is a tough guy.
South is blessed with athletes in the secondary. McDaniel, who returned a fumble for a score against Salisbury, is special. Wike, Rakeem Glaspy and Quan Glaspy have speed, and Houston can play free safety.
Rollins said South has about 80 players in the program, down from the 120 it once had, but the school has about 1,100 students, not the 1,800 it had in the fall of 2005.
“Our kids have been punched in the face a few times, no doubt, and it’s been a building process for us,” Rollins said. “Are we sitting now in the position that West Rowan and Mooresville are? No, we’re not. But that’s where we’re going.”
Starting Friday at Salisbury, South hopes to keep climbing the mountain.