2011 Football: Salisbury preview
By Ronnie Gallagher
SALISBURY — Joe Pinyan’s Salisbury Hornets return eight starters on defense and five on offense from a 2AA state championship team.
So is Pinyan already thinking about a place on the wall for another title banner?
“We aren’t thinking about a state championship,” he said. “We’re thinking about Aug. 19 and our (opener) against East Rowan.”
Despite last season’s 13-3 record and coming in on a 10-game winning streak, Pinyan isn’t getting ahead of himself and his staff is making sure the players aren’t either. The 30-0 state title win over Northeastern was great but it’s time to move on.
“We tell the kids state championships are hard to come by,” Pinyan said. “Does that make us special? We were fortunate. We tell them what we do next is important. We’re taking the games one at a time.”
Pinyan must find a quarterback for the first time in four years. John Knox is gone and senior John Hall and junior Brian Bauk are vying for the spot.
“I’m comfortable with both of them,” Pinyan said. “Everybody tries to be John Knox but right now, you can’t be John Knox.”
Hall (6-0, 175) is steady. “He had a good offseason,” Pinyan said
Bauk (5-11, 175) may be the quickest Hornet in the backfield. Last year’s jayvee quarterback could play quarterback, fullback or free safety.
“He could be our wild card,” Pinyan said. “He’s one of our most fierce competitors.”
The star on the offense who should replace Romar Morris is Dominique Dismuke, the offensive MVP of last year’s championship game. He ran for 1,052 yards and 12 touchdowns and caught 12 passes for 385 yards and seven more scores. He is a notoriously fast finisher.
“We joke that if we can get Dominique through the first five games, he’ll be ready to play,” Pinyan laughed. “That’s when he’ll throw in a couple of five-touchdown games.”
Pinyan calls the other wishbone halfback Justin Ruffin “a pleasant surprise.” The junior was pulled up last season and he averaged almost 10 yards per carry.
“He’s extremely confident,” Pinyan said of Ruffin, who was among the top sprinters in the county in the 100 meters.
Max Allen comes in after two years at East Rowan. As a sophomore, the 5-9, 180-pounder ran for 364 yards.
“He brings a little power and speed,” Pinyan said.
Other backs could be Braylon Dailey or Ben Ritchie.
Ritchie, a 5-9, 200-pound junior, replaces Riley Gallagher at tight end.
“He played in the state championship game and gained valuable experience,” Pinyan said. “Ben understands the tight end position and how important it is to us.”
Jon Mark Petty, Sam Humble and Scott Givens will back up Ritchie.
At wide receiver, senior Chase Etters, in his first year, has impressed Pinyan.
“He’s fast and he runs good routes,” the coach said. “He wants to be a good player.”
Dailey, Fred Williams, Desmond Holmes and Hall can catch passes.
The offensive line returns three starters, led by 6-0, 230-pound center Montana Harmon. He’s the offensive captain who has also played guard and tackle.
“He’s the type of offensive lineman we dream of having,” Pinyan said.
Guards are Terrence McElrath and Parker McKeithan. McElrath was a tackle last year while McKeithan, a junior, has grown to a whopping 6-5, 260.
“They are two of the better athletes we’ve had at that position,” Pinyan said. “Terrence is more physical than any of them. Parker has evolved from a big, young kid to a big player.”
The tackle spots will be manned by juniors Garrett Yelton (5-7, 190) and Jalen Warren (5-7, 180).
“They’re giving us everything we want right now,” Pinyan said. “They’re feisty.”
Pinyan is happy that he has three of his five linemen back and is even happier that the backups — Tyler Allen, Malik Wilson, L.J. Hairston, Paris Jones and Holden Hughley — are good enough to steal a spot.
“Having those three inside guys are beneficial for us,” Pinyan said. “It makes the job easier for the quarterback, whoever it us.
“Offensively, I still think we can be successful.”
Pinyan knows his defense is going to be successful.
Two of the top returners are linebackers. Senior Kavari Hillie (5-10, 215), the defensive MVP of the state title win, and senior Travis “Bang-Bang” Byrd are big-time players.
“Kavari’s a tremendous player,” Pinyan said. “Kavari runs a 40 at this speed but when the lights come on he runs at a different speed.”
Of the active Byrd, Pinyan said, “Travis is all over the place.”
The other linebacker could be 6-3, 220-pound Keion Adams, Hughley or Clint Comadoll. Yelton and Justin Cheek could see time there.
Adams is an impressive athlete. The 6-2, 215-pound Comadoll is only a sophomore, but Pinyan said, “His motor is running all the time.”
The 250-pound Givens will team with senior Jared Hardin on the defensive front.
“We’re counting on big things from Givens,” Pinyan said.
The other spot will go to Humble, Dearary Washington or Damek Bratcher. Washington is a first-year junior who stands 6-3, 230.
At the Hornet position, Pinyan has seniors Tion McCain and William Brown. Both are versatile enough to play anywhere.
McCain could also take the place of Darien Rankin at free safety. He made so many timely interceptions last season and has been such a leader that Pinyan named him captain back in the spring.
“Tion’s a great player who shows up right when you need him,” Pinyan said. “William (6-2, 190) is counted on to do a lot of good things.”
Returning cornerbacks are Dejoun Jones and B.J. Woods.
“I feel good about both of them,” Pinyan said. “They’re two great athletes.”
Daquan Robertson, Rasean Bledsoe and Robin Moulton will also see time there. “They’ve had a great offseason,” Pinyan said.
Somehow, Pinyan has come up with a quality kicker in his first eight years. This time, it’s senior Michael Mazur, who is booming punts and has great range on field goals.
So on paper, Salisbury has the look of a repeat champ in the CCC, although Pinyan warns Lexington and Thomasville are still on the schedule. And he is a big fan of what Mark Hoover has done at Central Davidson.
“I’d like to think we’re a favorite,” he said. “My biggest concern is depth.”
This year’s challenge is to meet everything the opponents are going to throw at the Hornets.
“We tell the kids every time they put on that gold helmet, they’re going to play in a big game,” Pinyan said. “We play people who are well-coached, from our scrimmages to West Rowan, Carson and East Rowan. So when we play in a big game, we’re prepared.”
But as the Hornets found out last season, the biggest game of all will be the last one — the state championship.
“We’ll take the invite if they want us,” Pinyan smiled.
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