Friday Night Hero: West Rowan’s Eli Goodson
By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA ó The face of West Rowan’s defense is Arkansas-bound quarterback crusher Chris Smith, but the nose is senior bruiser Eli Goodson.
For the past three seasons, Goodson (5-foot-10, 250 pounds) has been a disruptive force at the line of scrimmage. He’s been in the middle of eight shutouts, 30 wins in 33 games and one state championship.
Goodson wears the number Wake Forest’s Tristan Dorty made famous at West and has done it proud, even in the recent 39-36 shootout with Davie.
“Davie played very hard against us, brought their best, opened our eyes to some things,” Goodson said. “Salisbury played hard too. But we ain’t going nowhere. Not if we play West Rowan football.”
If there were concerns about West’s defense after the Davie game, a 14-7 headknocker at Salisbury on Friday answered them. Goodson was in Salisbury’s backfield often enough to letter for the Hornets. Salisbury is good. It ran 42 offensive plays, and only four produced significant gains.
One was an 82-yard bolt by Romar Morris on the Hornets’ first snap.
“I can’t take nothing away from Morris, but that was a missed alignment on our part,” Goodson said. “And that’s all they got.”
During its long run of county and NPC dominance, West has featured great tailbacks, good quarterbacks and powerful O-lines, but dynasties are built on defense.
West has defense. The last time another Rowan County team matched the Falcons defensively was in 2003, when Salisbury put up very similar numbers.
The last time a Rowan squad had defensive stats superior to the Falcons was in 2001, when South had safety Brad Lanning and linebacker Jay Phillips knocking people’s helmets off. It’s no coincidence that 2001 was also the last time West dropped a county game.
The names change at West. The system doesn’t.
West allowed 12.2 points a game Goodson’s sophomore year and 9.2 last season.
The Davie County game inflated this year’s numbers a bit, but the damage figures to be temporary. NPC play starts next week. West has allowed only two NPC teams to top 20 points during the last two seasons.
Goodson, who had 10 sacks as a junior while earning all-county and all-conference accolades, is in a good situation with good players all around him and good players like All-State selection Timmy Pangburn to work against in practice. He also gives credit to former Catawba standout Steven Williams for providing a good role model and coaching him up.
Goodson has been taught the “swim” and “rip” maneuvers defensive linemen employ to defeat blockers. On a swim move, Goodson lifts an arm high like he’s performing a freestyle stroke. Then he knocks aside the guy blocking him.
West head coach Scott Young said a swim-happy Goodson was tagged with a new nickname recently.
“We started calling him Michael Phelps,” Young said. “Eli’s had a few technique issues. He’s had some success with the swim move, but swimming doesn’t always work and it can take you out of your gap responsibilities. We’d like to see more ripping, less swimming.”The “rip” move is well-suited for Goodson, who is usually shorter than the man trying to block him. When he rips, he makes an uppercut punch underneath the pads of his adversary, lifts him and wins the battle for leverage.
Young had major praise for Goodson’s strong game against Salisbury. He combined better effort with superior technique. More rips, fewer swims.
Goodson’s been through many battles, but there are always things to learn.
“We’ve learned we’re good enough to win it all again,” he said. “But we’ve also learned we’ve got to really work for it.”