Prep Football: South Rowan 38, Salisbury 20

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 22, 2009

By Mike London
LANDIS ó Thomas Lowe’s second official carry in a South Rowan uniform was a costly fumble, but his 13th produced a gamebreaking, fourth-quarter touchdown.
Lowe’s return to football after spending his junior year in limbo was a success. He rushed 19 times for 157 yards to help South beat Salisbury 38-20 on opening night. The Raiders ended a five-year losing skid against the Hornets.
“I got hit right on the funny bone on that fumble, and I was worried about how the night might go,” Lowe said. “But then I brought it back. Our offensive line was great. I couldn’t be happier with them.”
Everything went according to the blueprint for South. Back D’Andre Harris (80 rushing yards, 69-yard kickoff return) and receiver B.J. Grant made plays. Quarterback Blake Houston managed the game. A defense headed by interior lineman Justin Hall and corner Mark McDaniel contained Salisbury speedster Romar Morris. Finally, South’s offensive line took charge of the line of scrimmage.
“We just kept pounding the ball,” tackle Zack Beasley said. “Eventually, we wore ’em down.”
Grant, quiet last season, resurfaced as a go-to guy. He scored on a kickoff return and a 30-yard reception and reeled in a gadget-play pass from Harris for a 38-yard gain to the SHS 1 that set up South’s final score.
“I was real proud of the way we kept plugging away on the ground and that’s what got B.J. open,” Rollins said. “Stick it down your throat ó then hit B.J.”
South was the better team last night, but Salisbury coach Joe Pinyan was accurate in his assessment that the Raiders aren’t 18 points better than the Hornets. Neither team was clearly superior in a fiercely contested first half.
After South didn’t execute on a punt late in the first quarter ó low snap, bobble, fumble ó SHS only had to go 13 yards to score first. QB John Knox went 5 for the score.
That 7-0 lead lasted all of 12 seconds. On the ensuing kickoff, Grant hit a seam, put a move on the kicker and took the ball 94 yards.
“I got a great block from D’Andre (Harris) and found the sideline,” Grant said. “D’Andre had almost run back their first kickoff. We thought we had a chance for some big returns.”
A 35-yard punt return by McDaniel led to Houston’s 30-yard TD pass to Grant that made it 14-7. Salisbury tied it 14-all when Knox flipped 12 yards to tight end Riley Gallagher to cap a 65-yard drive.
Lowe broke a 31-yard run on a fourth-and-3 at the Salisbury 44 late in the first half to set up a field goal by Jacob Jester that gave the Raiders a 17-14 halftime edge.
“If we don’t make all those miscues in the kicking game we should be up 17-7 at the half instead of down 17-14,” Pinyan said.
A Salisbury mixup may have provided the turning point. Down only a field goal in the third quarter, the Hornets had the ball at their 39 and needed a foot on fourth down to move the chains.
Pinyan wanted to go for it, but the Hornets wound up incurring a delay of game penalty. On fourth-and-6 they punted, and they never had a serious chance to win after that.
“Those miscommunication things are gonna happen in first games,” Pinyan said. “They happened for us tonight at the worst possible times.”
After Knox punted, South started at its 35 and plowed 65 methodical, clock-eating yards to make it 24-14. Harris hauled the load on that drive. South’s O-line had a tough time budging Salisbury nose tackle Kiontae Rankin in the first half, but once the 390-pounder fatigued a bit, the holes for Harris widened.
On Salisbury’s next possession, Morris scooted 10 yards on a desperate, fourth-and-15 play but was chased down short of the sticks by Jacob Baker and Brandon Ledbetter.
South took over, and Lowe promptly broke his 69-yard sprint up the middle and to the house to bust it wide open.
“I stiff-armed one, maybe two,” Lowe said. “The offensive line did the rest.”
A subdued Pinyan said the Hornets have a lot of work to do, but he offered plenty of praise for South.
“South’s good, and anyone who didn’t think they would be good is crazy,” he said. “They’ve got a lot of athletes on offense and guys that can run around on defense.”