Gallagher column: The top stories of 2010

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 2, 2011

This is my bi-monthly “We are so lucky to be sports fans and living in Rowan County” spiel.
Because it seems like every other month, something is happening here that makes you sit up and go, “Wow, we’re the best in something else.”
Rowan County has such success that you can’t claim something in March or July as the top story of the year. You’d be getting way, way ahead of yourself.
Here, big stories happen right up until the end of the year. You’ll understand as you read 10 of our top stories of 2010.
Think about the ride we went on in 2010. Rowan County produced a state championship in March (girls basketball), two in May — on back-to-back days, for cryin’ out loud — (track), one in June (baseball), one in November (tennis) and two in December (football).
We got to turn on the television set and watch East Rowan graduate Bobby Parnell throw fastballs over 100 mph. We got to see Arnold Palmer and other celebrities visit the city during the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Weekend. And as the year finished up, we were stunned upon hearing ESPN announce that one of our own — former Catawba player and assistant Jim Tomsula — was going to be the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers for yesterday’s season finale.
I’ll say it again. If you’re a sports fan and live in Rowan County, you are a very lucky person.
No. 1
Dec. 11, 2010 will go down as arguably the greatest day in Rowan County prep history. On that day, West Rowan and Salisbury received police escorts back to their schools.
That’s what happens when each wins a football championship.
In Raleigh, West Rowan was making state history, becoming the first team to ever win three straight titles in 3A. The Falcons beat Eastern Alamance (34-7) for a second straight year and proved how powerful they were by doing it with without star QB B.J. Sherrill in the second half due to a concussion. Sherrill still did enough to earn West’s Offensive Player of the Game. Logan Stoodley won the defensive award. Dinkin Miller was the game’s MVP.
Scott Young was named North Carolina Coach of the Year for the second time in three years. Domonique Noble and Charles Holloway played in the Shrine Bowl.
As soon as West’s game ended, Salisbury’s began in Winston-Salem and the Hornets were impressive in a 30-0 blowout of Northeastern in the 2AA title game. Romar Morris (game MVP), Dominique Dismuke (Hornet offensive MVP) and Kavari Hillie (defensive MVP) gave us 10 straight wins to end the season.
No one was smiling more than coach Joe Pinyan, who won his first crown in 26 years of coaching. In eight years, he took a program that was on the very bottom to the very top.
No. 2
A lady mentioned during the Moir Christmas Classic last week that it seems like the Post really concentrates on one school.
That’s the way it goes when you win. And win. And win.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a high school in North Carolina that was as successful in 2010 as the one principal — and former coach — Windsor Eagle oversees.
West Rowan football has to move over and make room for the Salisbury girls basketball and tennis teams.
The Hornet basketballers will be going for their third straight state title this season.
Bubbles Phifer was the MVP of practically everything last year as the team beat East Bladen at N.C. State’s Reynolds Coliseum.
That was just the beginning. By the end of the year, the Hornets had won a track championship behind Morris. When the school year ended, Salisbury had won the Wachovia Cup as the best all-around 2A school in the state.
School started back and Chris Myers’ tennis team promptly gave the basketball team something to shoot for. It won its third straight state title.
No. 3
The year ended like it always does, with humongous crowds watching the Sam Moir Christmas Classic at Catawba. It has become so popular that athletics director Dennis Davidson said he was ready to lock the door and stop ticket sales as soon as the boys game began. There were no seats left.
The Moir is without a doubt the social event of the year. People who won’t go to a single doubleheader during the year will come to this. And as usual, Salisbury dominated, winning both titles.
No. 4
When the year began, we expected West Rowan football and Salisbury basketball to win state titles.
But East Rowan baseball?
Brian Hightower is a motivator and he loves baseball so much it rubs off. Guys we’d never heard of — Will Johnson and Will Sapp, for instance — became household names as the Mustangs slapped away teams like Tuscola and Wilson Hunt to win the 3A state championship in Zebulon’s Five-County Stadium.
It ended a record-setting 31-2 season.
That title produced our favorite photo of the year. We caught Hightower hugging and smiling during the celebration.
Really, he was smiling.
No. 5
We had waited since 1996 to write the headline, but we loved doing it. South Rowan gave its loyal Legion fans a division champion. When Jesse Park shut out Wilkes County 12-0, South clinched the top seed in the Southern Division of Area III.
A bigger victory for the Michael Lowman-coached team for many South fans may have been taking the spotlight away from the Rowan Legion.
No. 6
When Bobby Parnell played for the Rowan Legion, people said he was just a solid player with a strong, yet erratic, right arm.
That same right arm is now throwing bullets for the New York Mets. On Aug. 18, he made national headlines by throwing a pitch 102.3 mph against the Astros.
No. 7
Staying with the baseball beat, can you believe how this county rallied around North Rowan pitcher Patrick Snider and his family?
When word got out that Patrick had testicular cancer, fundraisers began in earnest. Former players came out of the woodwork. And the most special night of all was when the South and Rowan Legion teams played at Catawba and together, raised $10,000 for the young man.
Patrick is gone now, but he’ll leave a lasting memory of a good kid who went down fighting.
No. 8
Yes, we have great football and basketall players in the county but we have great runners as well. On consecutive days, North Rowan’s Teaunna Cuthbertson led Robert Steele to another girls track championship, and Morris led Salisbury to a boys title by winning the 100 and 200 meters for the second straight year.
No. 9
What the West Rowan boys basketball team did last year was, without a doubt, the most unexpected feat.
Mike Gurley, who has won three state championships in his career, took a bunch of tired, state-title football players, led by K.P. Parks and Chris Smith, and coached them all the way to the 3A Western Regionals, winning 20 games.
It was just a special group. Listen to Anson County coach Matt Sides after his team lost 66-52 to the Falcons in the sectionals:
“They are all tough, physical kids. You could probably cross out ‘kids’ and put down ‘men’ because that’s what it felt like.”
No. 10
While the No. 1 story of the year came in December, the No. 10 came on the second day of January.
Parks, the greatest football player in Rowan County history, finished an unbelievable prep career by being named MVP in the Offense-Defense All-American game in Myrtle Beach.
An alternate, he barely made the event. Taking handoffs from Colt McCoy’s brother, Parks had touchdown runs of 42, 3 and 11, while rushing for 197 yards.
With 10,895 career yards, he finished third in U.S. history in rushing. On June 11, he repeated at Rowan County Athlete of the Year.