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Prep football: South notebook

This is the sixth of eight features on area football teams.
Today: South Rowan
Tomorrow: SalisburyBy Mike London
mlondon@salisburypost.com
The South Rowan notebook …
LANDIS ó South Rowan senior Keith Bernard Grant Jr. has ideal size and magnetic hands.
Grant, who answers to B.J., looks like a wide receiver is supposed to look in a uniform at 6-foot-2, 180 pounds. He also has major hops. He proved that by clearing 6-8 in the high jump in regional competition last May.
No one doubts Grant is near the top of the list when discussing Rowan’s best athletes. If they held a county-wide dunk contest, he might win it.
Still, Grant wasn’t even an all-county player as a junior, even with All-State tools. The reason he wasn’t all-county is a receiver has to receive the ball more often than Grant received it.
Grant ranked seventh in the county in receptions in 2008 and fifth in receiving yards. He’s capable of much more. He knows it. South’s coaches also know it.
How does Grant feel about last season?
“We made it to the playoffs so I was happy,” Grant said. “I’m not gonna complain. I got to play cornerback some (two interceptions) and I liked it. Things went OK, I guess.”
Grant’s too young to remember the Maytag appliance commercials that claimed the Maytag repairman was the loneliest guy in town. Maytag washers and dryers never broke down so the poor guy never got a service call.
In 2008, Grant was a modern Maytag repairman. His phone rarely rang. He’d go quarters without seeing a pass thrown in his direction.
This season, even with clock-eaters and chain-movers D’Andre Harris and Thomas Lowe teaming in South’s backfield, Grant should be busier.
“I thought B.J. did a heck of a job last year,” South head coach Jason Rollins said. “He was very patient, knowing we were trying to install an offense that was a run-type offense. Last season was Phase One. Now we’re in Phase Two. Now the passing game becomes a much bigger part of it.”
That’s good news for quarterback Blake Houston, who will operate from the shotgun, and it should be difficult for anyone to double-team Grant with all the firepower South has this year.
“We do have a bunch of threats,” Grant said. “I’m working on blocking better and running better routes and we’ve got new plays where I get the ball. I’ll run reverses and we could have a wide-receiver pass. It’s all looking pretty good.”
Houston had 70 fewer passing attempts as a junior than he did as a sophomore.
Grant’s numbers naturally declined. He posted 35 catches for 617 yards and eight TDs as a soph.
His junior numbers were quieter ó 19-363-5. That gives him 54 catches for 979 yards and 13 TDs for his career. Rollins sees his numbers escalating this time.
“You’ve got to use everything you have and B.J. is a guy who can really spread the defense out and help out our running game,” Rollins said. “If we don’t get the ball to him, we’re selling ourselves short.”
Houston’s favorite “B.J. play” was the soaring TD catch he made against Carson corner Zack Grkman when they were sophomores, but if you ask five different people to name their favorite play you might get five different responses. Grant’s caught a lot of balls in a lot of ways.
He should become the second 1,000-yard receiver in South history opening night. Adrian Parker, whose big season was 1994, holds the school marks with 91 catches and 1,493 yards.
Not that Grant’s sweating any of the statistical stuff. “My goal for this season?” Grant said. “Just go deep in the playoffs.”
How deep South goes may depend on how often Grant goes deep.
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WATCH OUT FOR: Three seniors you may not have heard of ó House, linebacker Jacob Nance and defensive end Kyle Rolla ó are drawing raves from coaches.
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THINKING OF YOU: South defensive coordinator Barry Lipscomb is on duty in Iraq and is scheduled to return home this spring.
“We stay in touch constantly,” Rollins said.
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FAMILIAR FACE: Daniel Crosby, the son of South AD Danny, is helping coach running backs. Daniel was an all-county fullback/linebacker a few years ago.
“Coach Lipscomb asked me to go up on the roof to help out one Friday night, and next thing I knew I was down on the field at practice every day,” Crosby said.
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FAMILIAR FACE II: Another young guy, Andrew Morgan, is coaching quarterbacks.
Crosby was a baseball catcher and used to block Morgan’s curveballs in the dirt for strikeouts.
Morgan was best-known as a lefty pitcher, but he was all-county in baseball, football and basketball at South and Rowan County Athlete of the Year for the 2002-03 school year.
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VOLUNTEERS: Blake’s older brother, Heath, who once had a four-interception game for the Raiders and was an East-West All-Star DB, is a volunteer helping Drew Rucks with the receivers. Houston is headed to the Air Force this winter.
Jerek Cannon, who was an all-county linebacker at South, is helping out again this year.
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BACK ON HIS FEET: Offensive coordinator/UPS driver Steve London lost 28 pounds with a serious illness caused by a gas leak on his UPS vehicle. They diagnosed the problem after his replacement also became sick.
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CAPTAINS: Houston, Harris and defensive end Cadarreus Mason were voted captains by their teammates.
Houston will likely play baseball in college. Mason and Harris are football prospects.
“They have grades, they carry themselves like they’re 26-year-old men, and they’ll have options,” Rollins said.
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LOOK, IT’S BROOKS: Jim Brooks stepped down from the South girls basketball coaching job, but that didn’t mean a vacation. Now he’s coaching linebackers.
“First time I’ve coached football since eight years ago at China Grove Middle,” Brooks said.
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CALL FOR BACKUP: South doesn’t have a backup QB on the roster, but cornerback Mark McDaniel is next in line if something happens to Houston. McDaniel is taking some reps with the offense.
McDaniel, a junior, could be the starting QB in 2010.
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NO NONSENSE: When a Raider dragged out to the practice field a bit late, it meant a jog for every player. Players were given five minutes to run all the way back to the locker room and then back to the field ó to start over.
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TIME TO SHINE: South’s senior-dominated team has looked sharp in the preseason.
“We haven’t had one bad practice,” Rollins said.

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