Friday Night Hero: Salisbury's Riley Gallagher
By Ronnie Gallagher
Four times this season, Salisbury tight end Riley Gallagher has caught touchdown passes. And four times, he has been greeted the same way by his teammates.
“I come to the sidelines,” Gallagher mused, “and they say, ‘You got behind everybody and scored. How did that work?’ ”
“I’m like, ‘I dunno.’ ”
Nobody seems to know how this converted quarterback not known for his speed gets open so often.
West Davidson coaches were probably shaking their heads watching film of Salisbury’s 35-0 victory in the Central Carolina Conference opener for both teams. Gallagher not only caught a 48-yard touchdown pass from John Knox, but he was instrumental in Salisbury’s score on a hook and ladder when he hauled in a 16-yard catch and immediately pitched to Romar Morris, who ran the final 31 yards.
The West Davidson coaches aren’t alone, though. The Salisbury staff seems just as baffled watching Gallagher.
“I don’t know how he gets open,” Hornets coach Joe Pinyan said. “I kid him about being the slowest human being in the world.”
Pinyan was actually saying those things last year when Gallagher quarterbacked the jayvee Hornets. He remembers one play in particular as Gallagher took the option toward the end zone.
“As they chased him downfield, I was thinking, ‘That’s the slowest developing option play I’ve ever seen. Will you go ahead and score?’ ”
Both Pinyan and Gallagher can joke about his lack of speed because he is one of the county’s biggest surprises. No one expected this.
In fact, Gallagher told Pinyan he wasn’t even coming out for the team. He knew Knox was only a junior and he’d be a forgotten backup QB who never got in.
But Pinyan told him they’d find him another position. It turned out to be tight end.
When Gallagher scored a touchdown in each of the first three games, he had found a home. And he stayed there, even when Knox got hurt. Pinyan didn’t insert Gallagher at QB, explaining to the 6-foot-1, 170-pound junior he was needed more at tight end.
“It was a big compliment,” Gallagher said. “I didn’t take it as a bad sign.”
The hook and ladder against West wasn’t a sure thing in Gallagher’s mind.
“I was kinda skeptical because we had tried it against West Rowan and it didn’t work,” he said. “But John threw it perfectly. All I had to do was catch it and pitch it.”
Gallagher then scored the Hornets’ last touchdown on a 48-yard pass in typical Gallagher fashion. No one expected it.
Pinyan was actually hoping Alex Weant would be on the receiving end of a pass. He didn’t figure Gallagher would be open.
“I told myself, ‘I’m just going to watch him,’ ” Pinyan recalled. “Riley just runs through and no one pays him any attention. Next thing you know, he’s 10, 20 yards out there. I’m like, ‘Do they not see him?’ ”
Gallagher credits Knox’s play-faking as the reason he gets open. He goes into Friday night with seven catches for 185 yards.
If Gallagher scores against Central Davidson, he knows he’ll get the same reaction when he reaches the sidelines: How did he get so open for such a slow guy?
And he’ll give them the same answer.
“It doesn’t matter how slow I am if I get open and I get in.”
Pinyan just laughs along with Gallagher. As far as his tight end’s success, he is letting it all soak in.
Nice and slow.