Friday Night Hero: West Rowan’s Josh Poe
By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA ó West Rowan junior Josh Poe is a young man in need of a new nickname.
“Josh Slow,” the name assistant coach Joel Crotts tagged Poe with, stuck quickly and it’s funny, but now it’s obsolete.
“They started calling me Josh Slow last year, and it’s because I was slow last year,” Poe said. “I was kinda big. I needed to work harder.”A key reserve and occasional starter in 2007, the “stud linebacker” in West’s scheme was the dominant force on a dominant defense in Friday’s 28-6 NPC victory against Northwest Cabarrus.
Poe made physical plays and he also made surprisingly athletic plays for a 6-foot-2, 230-pounder.
The phrase “agile, mobile and hostile” was first employed by Florida A&M coach Jake Gaither long ago to describe an aggressive defender, but it still works. No. 99 was many adjectives down in the valley at Northwest, but slow wasn’t one of them.”Northwest’s staff saw what our front four had been doing and did a great job game-planning for us,” West coach Scott Young said. “Their big No. 51 (290-pound Anthony Dickerson) did a nice job blocking Chris Smith, and Chris was quiet for Chris. Fortunately, Poe was all over the place. That helped us put on good pressure at good times.”
Smith, a certified star at defensive end was the first one to pat Poe on the back.
“Poe saved our butts a whole lot of times,” he said. “He’s really come around.”
As a freshman, Poe opened the season on the jayvees, but two injuries forced his elevation to varsity. His Friday-night debut still seems like a dream. He intercepted two passes in a 56-0 romp over South Rowan.
“It was unbelievable,” said Poe, who still owns the balls he picked off that night. “The first one got tipped, and it was a shock that it went in my hands. The second one, they must not have seen me. They threw it right to me.”
How crazy was it? Poe has zero interceptions since.
Stardom was predicted, but Poe spent his sophomore year content with being OK.
“Josh got playing time, but he was average ó average at best,” Young said. “But he started to come around in spring workouts and then he did a really good job over the summer.”
Nothing fancy. Just making it to the weightlifting sessions and running sessions, plus increasing his agility with old-fashioned drills on a rope ladder.
“His hard work paid off for our sakes and his,” Young said. “That size kid most people are going to put him on the D-line, but he’s come into his own as a linebacker.”
On Friday, Poe teamed with Smith to pound Northwest QB Jonathon Wallace for a 15-yard sack on a third-and-goal play, and he shocked his coaches by making a “roll tackle,” fighting past a pulling guard and diving to trip up running back Zach Burris on a sweep.
“The first roll tackle of my life,” Poe said with a smile. “The back was out of arm’s reach, but I made a dive at his legs. I couldn’t have made that play last year.”Not when he was Josh Slow. But now he’s earned a more aggressive nickname.
The best moment of all for Poe came at this week’s film session to critique the Northwest game.
Noting Poe’s spectacular roll tackle, coaches cheerfully ragged Smith and told him he needed to play a little more like Poe. High praise, but Poe’s effort earned it.
“Friday was the best game of my career,” he said. “Even better than the two-interception game.”