Friday legends: South 1983 team had best record in school history

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 12, 2008

By Mike London
No big names, but the most wins in school history.
South Rowan’s 1983 football team won 11 games and two championships and carried rookie head coach Larry Deal off the field in an emotional November celebration, but it’s usually forgotten in discussions of the best teams in county history.
Ask someone to name a 1983 Raider, and he or she would be stumped. You may as well ask them to name the president of Venezuela.
Greg Poole? Michael Ramseur? Tommy Barnhardt? No, no and no. They all came earlier.
“What we had was an awful lot of solid players,” Deal said. “That team was well-prepared by Reid Bradshaw, the coach who preceded me. I tried to continue what Reid had done. We took care of business in practice, and the kids adjusted well.”
Deal, a 1966 South grad, coached under Bradshaw 12 years before taking the reins in 1983. He’d been offered head jobs, but his allegiance was always to Bradshaw and South, and he helped Bradshaw build a dynasty.
“Coach Deal was passionate about the game,” quarterback Darren Corriher said. “We’d scrimmage and beat each other up all week. By Friday, we were ready for anyone.”
From 1974-1988, South posted 15 straight winning seasons and was 119-43-3.
In its eight years in the 3A South Piedmont Conference (1977-84), South’s dominance was staggering. The Raiders were 58-5 in league games, and three of those losses were in overtime.
Rowan’s marquee players in 1983 were North quarterback Jeff Holshouser and running back/linebacker Sam Miller. West’s Donald Gray shattered receiving records, and quarterback Dana Jones got the ball to him. East had a super running back in James Forney.
South’s only statistical leader was Corriher. He paced the county in punting.
In the 10-game regular season, no Raider threw for 400 yards, rushed for 600 yards or caught more than 11 passes. Corriher was fourth in the county in passing. Fullback Willie Sifford was fourth in rushing.
But South’s kicking game was the county’s best, and the defense, sparked by linebacker Jeff Sherrill and tackle Rick O’Kelly, kept the Raiders in every game.
“We didn’t have a standout,” Corriher said. “Just a bunch of guys who played together, and we made a play whenever we had to.”
Corriher made the play of plays when South stunned neighbor A.L. Brown, ranked No. 1 in the state in 3A.
“That’s the game everybody on that team remembers,” Corriher said.
The Wonders entered Raider Stadium 8-0 and 6-0 in the SPC. South had lost to North Rowan in a non-league game to begin the season and to powerhouse Concord.
The heartbreaking loss to Concord on Oct. 7 ó South took the lead late only to see the Spiders return the kickoff for a touchdown and an 18-15 victory ó made every outing a must win.
Shaking off the Concord trauma, South rallied to beat Northwest Cabarrus and Central Cabarrus (which beat Concord) to set the stage for the Brown game.
South offensive coordinator John Willett tossed new wrinkles at the Wonders and the game was a classic.
Trailing 32-26 in OT, a pair of procedure penalties left Corriher facing fourth down at the 15. But he’d made plays all night, and he made one more ó a TD pass to Terry Foster to tie. Larry Jones’ PAT kick won it and created pandemonium.
Corriher, who averaged 46 yards per punt, rushed for 131 yards and threw for two TDs, was WSOC-TV’s Gridiron Great of the Week.
“Darren was a great leader,” Deal said. “The Kannapolis game was action-packed. We couldn’t stop them, but they couldn’t stop us, and we had the ball last.”
A.L. Brown, Concord and South entered the final Friday with 6-1 league records. Brown played Concord for the “Bell” and more.
South traveled to play Wadesboro Bowman in rain and mud. Corriher had separated his throwing shoulder against Brown. He was limited to punting in the first half while halfback Bryan Overcash took snaps. It was 6-6 in the second half when Corriher told Deal he had a few throws in him. His TD pass to Sifford beat the Bearcats.
But Concord whipped A.L. Brown 27-7 to tie the Raiders for the SPC championship, and South lost the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Raiders would have won a tiebreaker with Brown.
Concord represented the SPC in the state-championship playoffs. South joined other runner-ups in the Division II playoffs.
The D-II playoffs were born in 1981. Salisbury went two rounds in 1981. South lost in the first round in 1982.
The format was criticized as a consolation tournament because the Division II playoffs only crowned Eastern and Western champs, not one state champion, but there were positives. The extra gates generated serious revenue and seniors continued careers.
South was very excited about being in the playoffs. After all, the Raiders weren’t a second-place team. They were co-champions and ready to prove it.
South won 9-0 at Davie County in the first round, battling huge tackles, Chris Jacobs and Darren Peebles, and holding the War Eagles to four first downs.
In the second round, Sifford rushed for 151 yards, Corriher threw two TD passes to tight end Bennett Hester, and South held off Hibriten 28-21. Hibriten’s standout back Sonny Hood needed 32 carries to get 117 yards.
In the game for the Western championship, South trailed 10-7 at the half on the road against an 11-1 Shelby team, but the no-names had one comeback left.
The heroes were members of defensive coordinator Steve Beaver’s backfield. Alan Caldwell and Jamie Morgan produced picks that led to second-half TDs, and diehard South fans still recall the 150-pound Overcash dragging Shelby defenders on the key drive.In the aftermath of a 21-10 win, Deal was hoisted on the shoulders of his players.
“That team didn’t hide anything,” Deal said. “Our emotions were on our sleeves, I guess, but those guys were not going to be intimidated by anyone.”
Twenty-five years have rolled by, and South hasn’t won more than eight games in any season since the 1983 team won its last seven outings to finish 11-2.
Current South coach Jason Rollins, who is eager to bring back the winning tradition, is aware of that special team’s place in history, and it will be honored before tonight’s home game with Northwest Cabarrus.
Deal said he’ll be there to “rub elbows” with the over-achievers from 1983.
Corriher, an electrician, will be there, and he won’t mind being asked about his 78-yard run in the Brown game for the 10,000th time.
Corriher is still South through and through. His wife teaches there, his 15-year-old daughter goes there, and his 11-year-old son is a South ballboy.