Friday Night Heroes: South Rowan’s Steve Erwin
By Mike London
LANDIS ó South Rowan offensive linemen made up the audience, and the film was frightening ó basically a Stephen King horror movie.
The flick’s title was “West Rowan vs. Mooresville,” and the star was No. 92, West nose guard Eli Goodson. The scariest part is when Goodson gets double-teamed, bullrushes his blockers and drives both of them in the direction of the quarterback.
With all due respect to West’s Chris Smith and South’s Cadarreus Mason, the 250-pound Goodson is the county’s most intimidating defender. He finishes his personal party with a swim move and a sack.
It was two against one, but Mooresville was clearly outnumbered.
“Steve Erwin has got his hands full this week,” South head coach Jason Rollins admitted grimly.
Erwin, South’s 5-foot-10, 210-pound senior center, has his hands full almost every week, but he’s survived.
“I guess I’ve always been kinda short,” Erwin said. “The weight room has been the place where I’ve tried to make up for it. I lift all summer. I’ve tried to make myself as strong as humanly possible.”
He is stronger than most humans, maxing out at 330 pounds on the bench press.
Salisbury nose Kiontae Rankin weighs 390 pounds, but Erwin helped the Raiders rush for 244 yards in a 38-20 victory.
A.L. Brown’s Dominique Phifer usually creates serious havoc upfront, but South rushed for 276 yards in a 21-19 victory.
Offensive line coach Jarrod Smith points at Erwin as the emotional leader of an experienced group that’s banged out 1,700 yards and four wins in five games.
“Every now and then we get mad at each other,” Erwin said. “But in the end, we’re always a unit.”
Erwin no doubt watched footage of West’s 48-9 destruction of Mooresville without changing expressions. As a three-year varsity starter, he already knows how good Goodson is.
Still, the South-West matchup on Friday could be entertaining because Erwin also is very good. He wasn’t bad as a sophomore. He got better as a junior. He’s improved more as a senior because he never stops working. Football is his obsession 12 months a year, with just a little time off to play first base for the baseball team.
Besides his muscles, Erwin has perpetual intensity working for him. As the backup for interior defensive linemen Zach Howell and Justin Hall, there are times when he can just go crazy on defense.
“Steve worked all summer on both sides of the ball because we weren’t sure where we’d need him most,” Rollins said. “Never any complaints or problems. We finally decided to let him bring that aggressive defensive mentality back to the offensive side of the ball.”
South’s decision to go to the shotgun as its standard offense assured Erwin’s future. He was the guy who could be counted on to execute the snap to quarterback Blake Houston every time.
And as Rollins hoped, Erwin’s ferocious attitude has rubbed off on his linemates.
“It’s not every day you see an offensive guy barking and making growling noises,” Smith said. “Yeah, Erwin’s intense, always looking for that next guy to block.”
Finding people to hit against West isn’t much of a problem. There are 11 guys coming hard. Blocking them is the challenge.
Erwin, intensity practically oozing out of his rock-like body on a Tuesday, is even more revved-up than usual. Just getting to be part of a game like this is exhilarating.
“We’ll prepare the best we can,” he said. “Try to play our game.”
It’s still September, but Friday probably will decide the NPC title. There will talent all over the field.
“Salisbury was a test and Kannapolis was a test, and we passed,” Smith said. “West is the SAT.”