Gallagher column: How to replace four great QBs
There they stood last August in all their glory, four senior quarterbacks being photographed under the lights for the cover of the Salisbury Post football edition.
All veteran starters with high aspirations. All returning all-conference and all-county. All familiar names.
Everyone expected good seasons. B.J. Sherrill of West Rowan and Salisbury’s John Knox gave us great seasons, leading their teams to state championships. Together, with Carson’s Zack Gragg, they combined for 38 wins.
East Rowan’s Jamey Blalock had to learn a new system but he had nice stats in a two-win season.
They’re all gone now, leaving a gaping hole at the most important position on the field.
How are the schools adapting?
At West, Connor Edwards and Isaiah (call me Zay) Lasster are competing. Coach Scott Young, who watched Sherrill win all 46 games he started, was very blunt with his quarterbacks.
“I said, ‘Look guys, this is one of the most important positions in the state of North Carolina right here — the West Rowan quarterback battle. One of you guys is going to win it. One is going to lose it. Let’s compete hard for it and may the best man win.’ ”
The best man.
With all the hoopla surrounding Sherrill over the past three years, we forget he wasn’t the starting quarterback at the start of his sophomore year. Jon Crucitti was.
So you never know who might emerge as the next in line.
Salisbury coach Joe Pinyan was asked about losing Knox. The master of the tongue-in-cheek quote, quipped, “You didn’t hear? John’s coming back for a fifth year.”
All joking aside, Pinyan pointed to junior Brian Bauk, last year’s jayvee QB, and John Hall, a senior, who backed up Knox.
“Between those two, we’ll accomplish what we need to,” Pinyan said.
Bauk played baseball and Pinyan said during the spring, “There’s no use going out and throwing it when we’re not going to throw it in a game.”
Another tongue-in-cheek remark? Who’s he kidding? No wishbone coach in North Carolina utilizes the pass more effectively than Pinyan. Just for the record, the man who doesn’t throw it gave Knox the chance to complete 47 — count ’em, 47 — career touchdown passes.
At East, senior Jonathan Lowe and junior Jordan Phillips are vying for the spot under center. Both are coming off injuries.
Lowe, Blalock’s backup, tore an ACL against West Iredell. Phillips, the jayvee QB, broke his collarbone against Hickory Ridge. Both are healthy and battling, according to East coach Chad Tedder. Lowe came to every spring workout. Phillips ran track so he’s ready.
“Throwing-wise, we’re better than we were last year,” said Tedder, entering his second year, adding that some talented receivers from the jayvee team are stepping up.
More will be learned in three 7-on-7s in July.
At Carson, Mark Woody has to replace Gragg and is looking at last year’s backup Dontae Gilbert, who played well when he got the chance, and, after baseball, Greg Tonneson and Austin McNeil.
But the most visible competition is at West. Everyone is curious whether either Edwards or Lasster can continue engineering the nation’s longest winning streak.
“Connor was everybody’s feel-good story last year,” Young said.
Edwards replaced Sherrill in the first half of the Falcons’ state-title win over Eastern Randolph after a concussion sidelined Sherrill. He helped the offense to 35 points. Then, in basketball, his 3-pointer won the sectional final and sent Mike Gurley’s team to the Western Regional.
Lasster came to Mount Ulla from Charlotte when his father got a job at West.
“We’ve got a great situation here right now,” Young said. “You’ve got to feel good about having a winner like Connor and a very good athlete like Isaiah.”
After a 7-on-7 sponsored by the Carolina Panthers on Thursday, Young said, “It’s a work in progress.”
Like it is at Salisbury, East Rowan and Carson. New leaders have to be found.
And like Young told his guys, “May the best man win.”
Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or firstname.lastname@example.org.