Prep Football: Salisbury 35, East Rowan 6
By Mike London
Three interceptions, tough line play on both sides of the ball and a growth spurt by sophomore quarterback John Knox keyed Salisbury’s 35-6 victory over East Rowan at Ludwig Stadium on Friday.
Coach Joe Pinyan, who won for the 50th time at the helm of the Hornets, spent the first quarter fussing at Knox after Salisbury (2-0) started its first three offensive possessions in East territory but failed to generate a single point.
The scoreboard wasn’t functioning after recent storms, but for a while it appeared it might not be needed.
“We really work hard on our passing game, and John wasn’t throwing it well,” Pinyan said. “But he turned things around. He did a lot of growing up tonight.”
All five of Salisbury’s touchdowns were big plays. Knox broke two TD runs on option keepers and connected with Romar Morris on a 60-yard pass play. A.J. Ford and freshman Dejoun Jones also scored on long TD runs.
Thomas Lowe rushed 21 times for 120 yards and East’s only TD before leaving with cramps in the third quarter. Quentin Sifford, who replaced Lowe, bruised for 103 yards on 15 second-half attempts.
Salisbury’s defense got the only points of the first quarter, battering Lowe in the end zone for a safety after Frankie Cardelle pooched a punt that was downed inside the East 1.
Early in the second quarter, East (0-1) converted a fourth-and-1 gamble at its 39 to get a drive going. It stalled at the SHS 32 when Lowe slipped on fourth-and-4, and on the next play, Ford burst out of serious congestion on a 68-yard breakaway for an 8-0 lead.
“I just slipped through there somehow,” Ford said.
But Lowe was rolling and he ran seven times for 75 yards as East answered with an 80-yard march to pull within 8-6.
Then East’s defense made another stop, and the Mustangs were pushing toward a go-ahead score when linebacker Pierre Jiminez intercepted a Marquise Weddington pass and returned it to East’s 34.
“I had the feeling that would turn momentum right there,” Jiminez said. “I knew our offense would score.”
The offense scored when Knox made a clever fake, extracting the ball from fullback Ike Whitaker’s belly like a dentist yanking out a molar as Whitaker was being swarmed by tacklers. Then Knox scooted 25 yards for the score that gave SHS a 15-6 halftime lead.
“I just showed it, faked it and got around the end,” Knox said. “Mostly that one was the O-line. They did good tonight.”
Salisbury’s mostly new O-line was its biggest question mark in the preseason, but a unit coached by Steven Swayney and led by veteran Tory Turner got the job done.
“Coach Swayney’s getting an awful lot out of those kids right now,” Pinyan said.
Patrick Evans got a pick for the Hornets on the fifth play of the second half, and Knox cashed it in for a 21-6 edge.
Then Lowe went down with cramps, and Knox and Morris ad-libbed their 60-yard scoring connection to put the game away. It was supposed to be a stop-and-go, but Knox dumped short to Morris when East blitzed. Then Morris sprinted through a gauntlet of tacklers and no one could catch him.
“So many little things went wrong,” East coach Brian Hinson said. “At halftime, we hadn’t gotten a single break, but it’s only 15-6 and I still felt OK. But we just made too many mistakes to win. In a way, we just didn’t look prepared, and that can’t happen again.”
Salisbury, which spent three practice days sloshing in the mud in preparation to pay back last season’s 42-21 loss to East, got what it wanted.
“This was a respect game for us and we got some respect back,” Pinyan said. “Our kids believe in respect and when they believe in something, they’ll fight hard for it.”