Friday Night Hero: West Rowan’s Josh Poe
By David Shaw
MOUNT ULLA ó Pick an adjective: hard-working, discerning, brutal-when-he-wants-to-be.
It’s all part of Josh Poe’s job description as the best linebacker on the county’s best team. In Friday’s 32-0 walkover at West Iredell, the West Rowan senior finally looked the part.
“He had one of those games where everything was coming his way,” defensive end Chris Smith said. “And he stepped up and met every challenge. That’s what we need from our top linebacker.”
Poe ó 6-foot-2, 230 pounds with better arms than Michelle Obama ó had the game West fans and coaches have been waiting for. No one other than the kid wearing No. 2 for the Falcons’ offense (K.P. Parks) had his name announced more than Poe.
“I needed this game,” he said during a mid-week practice. “I’ve been in a slump for the first few games. I was trying to read plays too much instead of just reacting to the ball. I wasn’t playing my normal game.”
Head coach Scott Young couldn’t help but notice.
“Earlier in the year Josh wasn’t playing up to his potential,” he said after West logged its second straight shutout and third of the season. “He wasn’t playing downhill. He wasn’t being a leader, which is what we need our senior linebacker to be.”
This one was often a late-arrival at the point-of-contact and during tackles.
“The problem with me was getting to the ball,” Poe said. “The D-line started helping me out a little bit. They started holding up the offensive line, getting hands on the tackles, keeping ’em off the linebackers.”
One look at Poe the past two weeks and you quickly realize he wasn’t designed for the gentle cycle. He’s done an about-face and emerged as a take-charge, Hall of Pain defender, a linebacker with a little Butkus in him. He hits quarterbacks like they were hanging curveballs, barks outs defensive signals with Sergeant Carter authority and communicates freely with Smith and members of the secondary.
“He’s playing with a lot more technique and getting to the ball quicker,” said WR assistant coach Lee Linville. “And he’s getting the defense set quicker.”
Added Kevin Parks, Sr., another assistant: “He’s become much more vocal out there. Josh is a humble kid until he gets riled up. Once you get on his bad side, you’re on his bad side.”
Against West Iredell Poe was part of take-no-prisoners defense that limited the hosts to 12 yards and two first downs in the second half. What’s more, he helped turn P.J. Clyburn, the Warriors’ all-Solar System wideout, into a non-factor.
“Our coaches did a good job coaching us up in the first half,” Poe said, footnoting that West Rowan fought harder than expected to build a 16-0 lead at the break. “In the second half we just came out and executed.”
Clyburn ó a prized recruit who’s popped up on everyone’s radar screen ó caught only one pass for five yards and gained another 13 on a pair of runs. He credits West’s defensive backs.
“They’re the ones that did that,” he said with a smile.
Poe remains a Division I prospect, though he’s drawn only luke-warm interest from a handful of Division I-AA and II programs.
“Don’t worry,” Smith insisted. “Poe’s a hard-working, fun-loving football player. In my eyes he’s a D-I prospect who loves to win. And that’s what we like at West Rowan.”