Prep football: Shaw column: Both teams got a boost in this one

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 11, 2009

There are times when a stadium scoreboard doesn’t tell the entire story.
Times when the numbers illuminated at the far end of a football field provide only a CliffsNotes version of what’s transpired. Times like Friday night.
West Rowan 14, Salisbury 7 was the undisputed truth. There’s nothing to squabble over. But listen to participants from both sides and you’ll learn how this slugfest of a game gave the winners ó and the losers ó a much-needed boost.
“Now we know,” Falcons receiver Jon Crucitti said. “Coming in, we had no idea what we were in for. Yeah, we watched them on film and knew they were very fast and athletic. But we didn’t imagine they’d be anywhere near that physical.”
Now lend an ear to Dominique Phillips, the SHS free safety who was at his disruptive best:
“We came out and did our thing,” he countered. “And even though we didn’t win, it shows how good we are right now. People said we were gonna get smashed, but we put up a game. We went four quarters with a team that’s been blowing people out since last year. That makes me proud.”
Indeed, the pregame hype was decidely one-sided. More than a few prognosticators believed defending 3A state champion West would drop an anvil on the Hornets, then rub their faces in the Ludwig Stadium turf.
“We heard all that,” said defensive back Darien Rankin. “We just didn’t go by what the media said and what the paper said. We didn’t come out scared. We came out and played like Salisbury.”
On this night, they came out and played defense with a ’68 Hendrix vengeance, trading blow for blow with an elite team. Sure, K.P. Parks and the West offense gave the adding machine another workout. But nothing came easy.
“Their defensive backs, their secondary, are very underrated,” West quarterback B.J. Sherrill said without being coaxed. “I thought I’d be able to throw it around a little bit. But as soon as the ball left my hands, they had three guys breaking to it.”
Salisbury’s defense was the story that gripped the overflow crowd in the first half, forcing three turnovers and pitching a warts-and-all shutout. “Our whole focus was to stop K.P and get the ball back,” said Rankin.
Trailing 7-0 late in the first quarter, Parks was wrestled to the ground on a fourth-and-8 slam from the Salisbury 10-yard line. Two other drives were foiled when Jeremiah Stockdale and Joseph Figueroa picked off passes. Another ended when Ike Whitaker pounced on a fumble at the SHS 34 with less than a minute remaining in the half.
“We had some high-quality drives in the first half,” Crucitti noted. “But when you drive 80 yards and don’t score, you know you’re working on a long field.”
Of course, West being West, the Falcons rebounded in the second half. They got mean and performed like playground bullies, kicking sand at the Hornets and stealing their lunch money. Parks capped a couple of long drives with touchdown runs, then watched from the sideline as Salisbury’s last charge up the hill was repelled in dramatic fashion ó receiver Dejoun Jones went airborne to snag a 7-yard TD pass from John Knox with 1:20 remaining, only to land inches out of bounds.
“If tough to walk away after an ending like that, knowing we were that close,” Knox said. “But right now, there’s no doubt in our minds that we’re a good team. Maybe even a state-championship team.”
That’s something only December knows. But for one tough-and-tumble September night ó with a chance to tug on Superman’s cape ó the Hornets nearly converted some non-believers.
“Hey, we went toe-to-toe with the defending state champions,” Salisbury coach Joe Pinyan said. “We’d loved to have won the football game. It’s what everybody dreams about. But I think West Rowan got back on their bus tonight knowing they’d been in a game. We gave them a fight.”
Ain’t that the truth.