2009 Football: Rowan County’s huddle of heroes

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 19, 2009

By Mike London
Forty-five years ago, as a wide-eyed 8-year-old, I discovered comic books.
For the next half-dozen summers, masked, flying, speeding and do-gooding superheroes became nearly as important to me as Jerry West, John Unitas, Bullet Bob Hayes and Willie Mays.
The heroes in those 12-cent comics obviously were pure fiction, but they offered escape from a real world that often wasn’t pleasant in the 1960s.
The recent success of Amazing Spider-Man and Iron Man on the silver screen indicates regular Joes still like losing themselves for two hours in wild adventures, even though the cost of a tub of buttered popcorn in 2009 is approaching the sum folks budgeted for a car payment in 1965.
There were two distinct kinds of comic-book heroes in the 1960s.
Those in the D.C. Comics world formed the Justice League of America. They were the traditional, crime-fighting guys and gals ó Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman.
They had secret identities ó Superman was a mild-mannered newspaper reporter, of all things ó but they basically had no lives when they weren’t wearing a costume. In most issues, the JLA saved the planet from aliens bent on its destruction, then calmly returned to their clubhouse to await the next crisis.
The heroes of the Marvel universe were different. They were ordinary people who stumbled into superpowers by random acts such as being bitten by a radioactive spider or being subjected to cosmic rays.
When Marvel finally ran out of dramatic origins for its heroes, it created the concept of the mutant and changed the industry. No longer did ordinary citizens have to be doused with weird chemicals or struck by stray lightning bolts to acquire special powers.
All they had to do was be mutants. Every mutant ó all the X-Men were mutants ó were simply born with X-tra powers. It was the best idea since the face mask.
Marvel’s mightiest ó the Incredible Hulk and the Thing ó were haunted by their powers and desperately wanted to be rid of them.
Others, like Spider-Man, struggled 24 hours a day. Peter Parker spent his life with $2 in his wallet, late for class and in the doghouse with his girlfriend.
All of us could relate.
Informed that this year’s football edition would have a superhero theme, I began the awesome task of assigning alter-egos to Rowan County’s latest bunch of uniformed crusaders.
West Rowan defensive end Chris Smith, is one of the more chiseled athletes in the history of the world. They could use Chris, rather than a textbook, in anatomy class.
Smith, whose nickname has been Hercules since ninth grade, has super-strength, but he’s too personable to be the Thing, who resembles a pile of orange rocks and is usually in a foul mood. Smith appears indestructible, so he’s Wolverine.
Among his long list of superpowers, Wolverine owns a mighty physique that automatically heals when he’s wounded, and he’s wounded quite frequently.
Salisbury’s Ike Whitaker is Iron Man. SHS coach Joe Pinyan is a firm believer in the two-platoon system, but it will be hard to sit Whitaker on offense or defense. The fullback/linebacker is competitive enough to fight for 48 minutes.
South’s Cadarreus Mason, a 235-pound defensive end, is our Incredible Hulk, even though he hasn’t been over-exposed to gamma rays as was the case with Bruce Banner, the original green guy.
Mason, son of South’s team chaplain, is the nicest guy in the world until the whistle blows. Then he starts throwing around blockers the way Godzilla threw around Toyotas.
Like the Hulk, Mason is not a guy you want to make mad. You won’t like him when he’s angry.
In the comics, Hal Jordan was a test pilot hand-picked by the Guardians of the Galaxy to be Earth’s protector ó its Green Lantern. Every populated planet in the galaxy was assigned one GL.
Hal’s ring could do almost anything ó except it didn’t work against yellow objects. The reason ó every power ring had one flaw to make sure Green Lanterns didn’t become so powerful they took over. Hal’s remarkable ring instantly could create a shield to thwart 20 atomic bombs, but he was in trouble if a villain threw a plate of scrambled eggs at him.
Our Green Lantern is North Rowan’s two-way warrior Vince Shropshire, a linebacker and running back. Our only worry is Salisbury sometimes wears uniforms that are sort of yellow. Shropshire’s powers may not work against the Hornets.
Carson cornerback Zack Grkman is a slick, cerebral guy who reminds us of Mr. Fantastic, the brains behind the Fantastic Four and a fellow who invents cool stuff when he’s not employing his elastic powers to slide through keyholes or under doors. It’s no stretch to predict Grkman will be all-county and the Cougars will have their best season.
Sam Edmonds, a two-way hustler, will be a leader on an improved East Rowan squad. Since East may climb in the standings, Edmonds will be Spider-Man, a hero who climbs walls when he’s not chasing the Green Goblin ó or Mary Jane Watson.
Like the Atom, Salisbury DB Joseph Figueroa is a little fellow who packs a big punch.
Salisbury’s Romar Morris would make a fine Flash, who was modestly billed as the world’s fastest human. So would Carson’s Shaun Warren or South’s Blake Houston.
Cool under pressure, West QB B.J. Sherrill could be Iceman. North’s Javon Hargrave was CCC Defensive Player of the Year. He’d be a natural for the role of The Beast.
I could go on and on with the heroes, but it’s time for football. It doesn’t require X-ray vision to see it’s going to be a super year.