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Prep Football: It’s West’s O-line vs. D-Line

By Mike London
mlondon@salisburypost.com
MOUNT ULLA ó West Rowan senior defensive stud Chris Smith is 98 percent muscle and 2 percent compassion, and that 2 percent kicked in after Friday’s 55-12 destruction of young, overmatched Statesville.
Smith felt at least some of the pain experienced by Statesville’s freshman quarterback Carlis Parker.
“He’s a good athlete, very good for such a young guy, but we chased him around pretty good,” Smith said. “Had to get after him on Senior Night.”
A freshman QB taking the field against West’s defense and operating behind a green offensive line was like a 15-year old with a learner’s permit taking his chances in the Daytona 500.
It was like watching bumper cars at the county fair. Parker was crushed eight times behind the line of scrimmage. His running game couldn’t relieve pressure. Nine times Greyhound backs were thrown for losses, thrown around like milk cartons in a food fight.
“Parker, I thought, accounted for himself well for a kid making his second varsity start,” West coach Scott Young said. “He always got up, maybe slowly at times, but he always got up.”
Statesville coach Randall Gusler has his eye fixed on the future. The Greyhounds aren’t going anywhere in 2009, and he accepted that harsh reality after after the 40-14 beating his team took from Carson at Greyhound Hollow on Sept. 25.
“From the start, we knew this would be a tough year, as young and inexperienced as we are,” said Gusler, whose team gave West a rugged scrap in the second round of the 3A state playoffs last season. “We’re a long ways away right now from competing with a team as good as West, and we’ve got to work to get better.”
Gusler’s plan is to give Parker, a potential franchise player, some experience the rest of this season. Parker collected experience Friday that he’ll likely never forget.
“I still had fun,” said Parker, who completed two of his 14 run-for-your-life passing attempts and had two throws picked off by Falcons. “West is big, their guys are quick, their guys are fast and they showed me some stuff that I’d never seen. But it’s all right. I learned a lot of things.”
Even with an offense that includes 2,000-yard rusher K.P. Parks, the county’s top passer (B.J. Sherrill), the county’s top receiver (Jon Crucitti) and an All-State lineman (Timmy Pangburn), West’s defensive line may be the most dominating aspect of a program that has now won 45 of its last 49 outings and has dropped one league encounter since 2004.
West’s D-line is so intimidating there are occasional quarters when Smith, a very special Arkansas commitment, is the quietest of a ferocious foursome. Eli Goodson, Mackel Gaither and Emmanuel Gbunblee all have their destructive moments. Gbunblee’s second half on Friday was a sight to behold.
Gaither calls West’s offensive line his biggest rival, and that makes sense. In all seriousness, West’s O-line may be the only unit that would have a fighting chance to move the ball against West’s defense.
Where will this West team rank in history?
Up there.
Times change, weights and 40-yard dash times change, and today’s Falcons exist in a different environment than the legends of yesteryear who faced a fierce challenge almost every Friday in the old SPC or NPC.
Relative to the competition, the 2009 Falcons have to be as dominant as any county team has been in the past 50 years. On an average night, West wins 41-9. In an average NPC game, West wins 46-7. West beat a 6-2 South Rowan team 28-0 and allowed 28 rushing yards to a backfield comprised of three all-stars.
During its 2008 championship run, West needed a few breaks to beat a faster Carver team. This time, you get the feeling any 3A team will need serious good fortune to beat West.
With the guys it has in the trenches, West could probably line up against anyone in the state right now ó Butler, Independence, whoever ó and handle itself just fine.
n
Previous great county runs include:
n South had a dominating 44-9 stretch in 1980-84.
n North had two 12-game winning streaks in the 1980s.
n In a stretch from 1972-1975, Pete Stout’s Salisbury teams enjoyed a 28-3-2 spree that included two WNCHSAA titles.
n Forty years ago, East won all 13 outings, part of a 31-4-1 run from 1968-70. Those Mustangs had a stretch of 23-0-1 on the field, but forfeited one game.
n Bill Ludwig’s 1955-58 Boyden teams were 33-7-2, with two state titles in the state’s biggest classification.
n In the days of segregation, Salisbury’s black school, J.C. Price, coached by S.W. Lancaster and with Shaky Bush and Ernest “Mr. Touchdown” McCray running wild, posted a 22-1-2 mark from 1950-52. The loss was in a state title game.
n Finally, Price’s 1940 state champions set the bar high for all dominating teams that followed. Spotlight Jones, Scooterbuck Gaston and their buddies didn’t allow a single point that year, while scoring 336.
Leon Gaither, late grandfather of West’s Mackel Gaither, was one of the stars of the 1940 Price Red Devils.
Maybe that helps explain why today’s Falcons are what they are.

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