By Mike London
Football is a game of inches, but Rowan County athletes proved this football season that height matters less than heart and muscle.
Lots of guys who aren’t tall excelled as Rowan schools teamed up for an historic year ó a combined 43-12 against opponents outside the county lines.
All six Rowan teams had winning records if you throw out the intracounty games. Tossing out North’s 0-3 slate inside the county, the Cavaliers were 5-4. East went 2-3 in county games but was 7-1 otherwise. Carson was 1-4 vs. Rowan but 6-2 against outside foes.
Unbeaten state champion West beat all 12 of its non-Rowan foes, while Salisbury (7-3) and South (6-2) more than held up their end against quality opponents.
Both 2009 Rowan County players of the year check in at under 6 feet, but they set the bar very high for all future players of the year. They were extraordinary.
So were three of the shortest all-county guys ó West’s Trey Mashore, Salisbury’s Ike Whitaker and North’s Vince Shropshire. That trio made some of the biggest hits we’ve seen (and heard) in quite a while.
Nine members of this year’s all-county defense are listed at under 6 feet in their team’s program and a couple more got the benefit of the doubt from coaches.
Still, blocking these guys would be a very tall order.
The all-county defense:Eli Goodson, West, Sr., DL
West stopped the run (68 yards per game). The key to that was Goodson (5-10, 245), a nose guard who was named NPC Defensive Player of the Year as well as Rowan County Defensive Player of the Year.
He had 35 tackles for loss, posted nine sacks and forced four fumbles.
Chris Smith, West, Sr., DLBlessed with an NFL body, the defensive end (6-2, 230) was dominant in both the state championship game and the Shrine Bowl. He won defensive MVP honors in both.
Smith batted down four passes in the state title game. He finished with 14 sacks for the season and probably set a county record with 82 QB hurries. He’s committed to Arkansas.
Javon Hargrave, North, Jr., DLHargrave (6-1, 255) unofficially led the county in sacks and officially led the state in fumble recoveries with eight.
Kiontae Rankin, Salisbury, Sr., DLSalisbury’s nose guard (6-4, 390) was a surprisingly nimble athlete and the key to the Hornets limiting seven teams to fewer than 100 rushing yards. He knocked two running backs out of the game at Thomasville.
Zach Howell, South, Sr., DLA run-stopper, Howell (6-2, 280) played well as South “held” West superstar K.P. Parks to a season-low 167 rushing yards. South outrushed nine opponents this season. Howell was always a big factor.
Chris Demitraszek, East, Sr., DLDemitraszek (6-0, 240) looks tough and plays tough. East’s defense had strong moments, including shutouts of North Rowan and Concord, and Demitraszek was one of the leaders.
Darien Rankin, Salisbury, Jr., LB
Playing the “Hornet” position that’s a mix of strong safety and linebacker, Rankin (6-0, 185) was his team’s most dynamic defender. He was in on 15 tackles against West Rowan and had 14 against both Davie and Thomasville.
Cadarreus Mason, South, Sr., LBSouth moved Mason (6-1, 240) from defensive end to middle linebacker to keep teams from running away from him, and it paid off. A solid college prospect, he returned quickly from a late-season appendectomy.
Vince Shropshire, North, Sr., LBHard-nosed and competitive, Shropshire (5-7, 195) was North’s top tackler and also contributed 580 rushing yards as a two-way threat.
Josh Poe, West, Sr., LBWest’s leading tackler with 87 primary hits and 71 assists, Poe had three fumble recoveries in the playoffs, including one in the title game.
Ike Whitaker, Salisbury, Sr., LBSalisbury’s “Iron Man” was stout when needed on defense and contributed 861 rushing yards and 10 TDs as the wishbone fullback.
Quentin Sifford, East, Jr., LBIn a win against a pretty good Hickory Ridge team, Sifford threw a TD pass, ran for two scores and created an interception with a QB hurry. He rushed for 803 yards and may have been even better when he was on defense.
Sam Edmonds, East, Sr., LBEdmonds (5-11, 180) made a fumble recovery deep in Carson territory that helped the Mustangs win one of the more hotly contested games of the season. Had double-figure tackles most weeks.
Linares Pagan, Salisbury, Sr., LBAlways steady, Pagan (6-2, 230) had double-figure tackles five times, including the big playoff wins against Pisgah and Shelby.
Domonique Noble, West, Jr., DBThe rangy corner (6-2, 190) produced two interceptions in the 3A title game to lift his season total to six. Also had seven tackles for loss.
Trey Mashore, West, Jr., DBThe strong safety (5-7, 150) was one of the county’s top kick returners and was the primary tackler 70 times.
Dominique Phillips, Salisbury, Sr., DBThe free safety (5-11, 170) made four interceptions, including one at Shelby. He was in on 18 tackles in Salisbury’s 14-7 loss to West Rowan.
Mark McDaniel, South, Jr., DBThe swift cornerback (6-0, 165) returned two kickoffs for scores (in the same game) and also had two punt returns for TDs.
Quan Glaspy, South, Sr., DBGlaspy (5-11, 185) did a little of everything for South, playing offense, defense and special teams.
He returned a kickoff for a TD against Carson, picked off two passes, rushed for three TDs and caught four TD passes.
Derrick Sewell, Carson, Sr., DBThe surprise of the season, Sewell (5-10, 165) wasn’t even on the roster as a junior. He made six picks, recovered three fumbles and broke up eight passes. He returned one pick for a TD.
Jeremiah Stockdale, Salisbury, Sr., DBStockdale (5-8, 150) made five interceptions, returned them for 103 yards and also defensed 20 passes.