Prep Football: Salisbury 64, Providence Grove 7
By David Shaw
CLIMAX ó So this is what 11-0 really looks like.
Salisbury’s football team brushed aside all of its recent misfortune Friday night and played like a team with a championship to win.
“Pay attention,” coach Joe Pinyan told the Hornets after they dismantled host Providence Grove 64-7 in their regular-season finale. “You are a great football team. And I’m gonna tell you what else you are. You’re 11-and-0.”
Pinyan’s short-and-sweet postgame address set off a small celebration that was more vindication than anything. Sucker-punched by fate a day earlier ó and forced to surrender four of its CCC victories ó Salisbury vented by scoring nine touchdowns and rushing for 468 yards.
“We sent everyone a message for the playoffs,” running back A.J. Ford said after racking up a season-best 157 yards on the ground and busting three TD runs. “We’re gonna win, regardless of what they try to do to us.”
Officially, Salisbury is a 7-4 team heading into the 2AA playoffs next week. But nobody who witnessed this massacre can envision them as a 7-4 team.
“Our kids are angry and resilient,” Pinyan said. “They feel like people tried to take something from them that was rightfully there’s. As far as I’m concerned they’re 11-0 on the grass, they’re conference champions on the grass and the last time I looked, that’s where you decide those things.”
The Hornets were hoping to complete an unbeaten regular season and become the first Salisbury team with an unblemished conference record since 1995. Now history will have to wait after they were cited for using an ineligible player in four league games.
“The whole thing hurt us, hurt us bad,” said Dario Hamilton, one of three SHS backs to eclipse 100 yards rushing. “The only thing we could do about it was go out and play hard.”
They played like a well-oiled machine, scoring touchdowns on four of their first five possessions and building a 29-7 halftime lead. Most impressive was a 96-yard kickoff return for a score by Romar Morris, a sideline sprint that snapped a 7-7 tie in the first quarter.
“Not many people kick it to Romar,” Pinyan said. “And that’s the reason right there. His speed is so dangerous that people don’t try to give him the football. We have to find ways to get it in his hands.”
Salisbury found another one midway through the third quarter, when Morris ó positioned as a receiver on the left side ó took a handoff from quarterback John Knox, Roto-Rootered his way down the right sideline and scored on a 61-yard reverse. It gave the Hornets a 43-7 lead.
“We had to make sure everybody knows we’re not a one-man team,” said Hamilton, who scored on runs of 30, 24 and 3 yards. “One man doesn’t make us look good. We’re a team ó and this was a team effort.”
Salisbury sealed the deal with three fourth-quarter touchdowns, the last on a 20-yard run by freshman Dominique Dismuke. It was his first varsity TD. Not to be overlooked was Salisbury’s bulletproof defense, which limited Providence Grove (5-6, 2-5) to seven first downs and 48 rushing yards and forced eight punts.
“This game felt good,” said Ford, a senior averaging better than 8 yards per carry this season. “It’s playoff time and we still feel like we’re undefeated.”
Pinyan offered a similar take. “I don’t know if anyone can look at the 11 games we’ve played and expect anything different than what we did tonight,” he said. “We proved we’re a championship-calibre football team.”
Hamilton said he can’t wait to get back on the field and prepare for the postseason. “We’re gonna practice like we’re 11-0,” he said. “And we’re gonna play like we’re a top seed. Even if we’re not.”