Gallagher column: Remembering Daniel at 13

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 29, 2008

By Ronnie Gallagher
Roaming the county getting ready for tonight …
Carson football coach Mark Woody called Daniel Yates a tremendous athlete.
“I don’t think people realize how talented he really is,” Woody said.
I do. And I knew it when the kid was 13.
Yates used to live on my street. In our neighborhood, everybody uses each other’s pool, plays at each other’s basketball goal and eats each other’s food. Shoot, we even mow each other’s yard.
One day, a kid walked down the street from Bill and Bonnie’s house and started shooting hoops on our goal with Jack and Mackie. The first thing I noticed was that he was dunking.
“Who is that?” I asked.
“That’s Daniel,” I was told. “He’s 13.”
“He’s 13.”
“But he’s dunking,” I marveled. “He’s 13?!”

I started watching this Daniel kid and realized quickly he could become an amazing athlete. Even more amazing was that Yates was not a star in middle school. He was second string.
“I really wasn’t that fast then,” Yates laughed the other day before Carson’s practice. “I was just bigger than everybody else.”
Yates is still big (6-foot-1, 200 pounds) and much faster. He was third in the North Piedmont Conference in the 100 meters as a sophomore. He also was seventh in the state in the long jump as a junior.
Now, Yates enters his senior season as one of Rowan County’s best athletes. And he has one thing in mind going into Friday night: beating North Rowan for Carson’s first-ever victory.
Yates is already thinking of the short bus trip to Spencer.
“It’s going to be an intense ride,” he nodded. “Everybody’s going to be real excited. We’re not going to want to go to the locker room. We’re going to want to go right onto the field.”

This week showcases the best games of the season. Besides Carson-North, East Rowan opens at Salisbury, West Rowan travels to Davie and South Rowan makes the short ride to A.L. Brown.
But Carson and North take the spotlight. Why? Because Carson’s favored, that’s why.
When was the last time a school who was 0-for-its-history been favored? Never.
“That’s common sense,” Woody grinned, obviously enjoying the hype of his season opener. “It’s different for us being on the other side. But we expect to be there. We’re trying to get our kids to believe that.”
North lost its opener to juggernaut West Rowan 60-0 while Carson is supposedly much improved. So on paper, the Cougars are favored.
“Everybody’s liking it that we’re being favored,” Yates beamed.
But don’t expect Yates or his teammates to have the big head. That would be a little ridiculous.
“We’ve still got to come ready to play,” Woody maintained. “I know they’ll be ready to play us.”
Don’t forget this, either. North still has athletes that can hurt Carson.
“They’ve got some talent and if you’re not careful, they’ll burn you,” Woody continued. “They’ll be better this week. They’ve got a game under their belts. We don’t.”

But back to Yates. He left my neighborhood and moved east. He credits then-East Rowan coach Jim Crawley (now at China Grove Middle) with upping his speed in drills at East during his freshman season.
“He worked the mess out of everybody,” Yates said. “That’s when I really got fast.”
When Carson opened, Yates found he lived closer to that school. After two seasons in the backfield, he is now a pass catcher.
“My first goal is to be the No. 1 receiver in the state,” Yates smiled. “No one can cover me.”
I told Yates he’d come a long way since I first laid eyes on him.
“I felt I’d be a little better in basketball, to be honest with you,” he said.
That’s what the neighborhood was thinking when he was dunking on my goal at age 13.

The mystery team going into tonight is East Rowan. No one knows exactly what Brian Hinson has. He lost a lot of senior starters from his debut as a head coach.
West Rowan isn’t a surprise, but its battles with Davie over the years have been legendary.
If South beats A.L. Brown, it will be a monumental upset. The Wonders are considered a state title contender.
But in high school football, ya never know …

On the air tonight …
The dynamic duo of Howard Platt and Wilson Cherry will be in Mocksville, bringing us the West-Davie clash on WSTP 1490 AM.
WSAT 1280 AM will have reporters at several games, breaking in every 15 minutes with updates.
And Carl Ford will be calling the South-A.L. Brown contest on WRNA 1140 AM.

Rowan County is the best sports county in the state. Some people in other towns think it’s nuts that Salisbury has two radio stations covering one Legion baseball team. But is there another county in this state with three radio stations covering prep football?
Do you people know how lucky you are?

The Post is double-covering the Carson-North game with Nick Bowton and David Shaw. Brian Pitts will be following West and Mike London gets the first look at East over in Ludwig Stadium.
Go watch some football tonight, folks. And remember, be nice.

Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or