Friday Night Hero: Salisbury's Pierre Jimenez
By Nick Bowton
Salisbury’s defense fell apart last season when senior linebacker Brandon Clodfelter missed the second half of a loss to East Rowan with a shoulder injury.
The Hornets, however, are doing a much better job replacing Clodfelter this season. And Pierre Jimenez is a big reason why.
A 5-foot-11, 210-pound senior linebacker, Jimenez has emerged as a playmaker in the center of the Salisbury defense. He intercepted a pass in a season-opening victory against South Rowan two weeks ago, then intercepted another one Friday night against East Rowan.
“What we got right now is four or five guys giving us a lot of good snaps,” Salisbury coach Joe Pinyan said. “Pierre is the guy who’s been there the most.
“The key is he’s being a leader at a crucial time.”
Pinyan uses the word “crucial” because he has a young defense and wasn’t sure which players would embrace roles as leaders.
In Jimenez, Pinyan has found someone who, if nothing else, has shown a knack for making big plays.
Against South Rowan in the opener, Salisbury led 13-6 when the Raiders took the second-half kickoff and drove to the Salisbury 15-yard line. Jimenez ended that drive with an interception at the 10, reading the eyes of quarterback Blake Houston and stepping in front of a receiver.
He even showed some speed after the turnover, producing a 30-yard return.
Jimenez’s second interception proved just as important. Pinyan, in fact, called it one of the most important plays in Salisbury’s 35-6 victory against East.
The Mustangs, who beat Salisbury 42-21 last season, had momentum Friday when they scored a touchdown to get within 8-6 and stopped Salisbury on the ensuing drive. East was driving again when Jimenez intercepted a Marquise Weddington pass in the second quarter. The Hornets went on to win 35-6.
“I figured I was gonna have a pretty good season this year,” Jimenez said. “I felt like it was my turn. … But it was surprising to have one (interception) in the first game, one in the second game.”
Jimenez’s early success has helped Salisbury to allow just 20 points heading into its third game tonight. The play of defensive linemen Kiontae Rankin (6-4, 385) and Jason Hayes (6-3, 285), has helped too.
“It makes it easier for me to make a play,” Jimenez said. “I can shoot straight through with big Kiontae in front of me. It makes it a lot easier.”
If Rankin keeps causing havoc on the line and Jimenez keeps intercepting passes, Pinyan’s concerns about a young defense should ease as the season progresses. Salisbury might not have a Clodfelter on this team, but it has a linebacker in Jimenez who is a serviceable replacement.
Jimenez also keeps the atmosphere light-hearted.
“He is a jokester,” Pinyan said. “But if you’re playing this game and not having fun, you need to get out of it. He’s having fun.”
How could he not be? Jimenez’s team is 2-0, and he’s averaging an interception per game. He’s enjoying every bit of it.
“I try to be friendly with everybody,” he said. “But on the field I know it’s not joking time.”