2011 Football: Salisbury went on a magical ride in 2010
By Ronnie Gallagher
SALISBURY — Joe Pinyan doesn’t like to get ahead of himself, but this time, he couldn’t help it.
It was halftime of the state 2AA championship game at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem and his Salisbury Hornets led Northeastern 14-0.
“You always dream about a championship game and what it would be like going in at halftime,” Pinyan said. “As I walked into the locker room, things started flashing through my mind. I thought, ‘We’re going to win a state championship. We’re going to beat them. They can’t stop us. They can’t score on our defense.
“You work 26 years and now you’re 24 minutes in … and you know it’s going to happen. Everything had fallen in place.”
Funny, but Pinyan wasn’t thinking that when he got home after his team’s Sept. 24th game with Davie County. The Hornets led 14-12 and needed one play to secure the win. That’s when Carson Herndon fired an 88-yard touchdown pass to Joe Watson.
Salisbury was 3-3. No one was talking state championship.
“I went straight home and started working on my resume,” Pinyan laughed. “I told myself, ‘You’ve got Romar Morris, John Knox and Darien Rankin … and you’re 3-3?’ ”
Salisbury beat CCC rival West Davidson 49-26 but in Week 8, Central Davidson stunned the Hornets, racing out to a 37-27 lead at halftime. Well, everyone thought, maybe this isn’t the year. After coming up one inch short in the Western final a year earlier at Newton Conover, it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Then Salisbury came out for the second half.
It was like a magic wand came down from the heavens and touched each and every Hornet. The rest of the half — and the season — was magical.
“Central lays the ball down two or three times and they hadn’t done that all year,” Pinyan said.
The result? Twenty-nine straight points and a 56-37 win.
After taking care of Lexington, mighty Thomasville visited. Again, Pinyan reflected back to halftime with his team up 10-0. He felt the buzz.
“You could see it on the faces of the kids,” he said. “They were like, ‘We are a good football team.’ ”
Down 10-7, Thomasville appeared to be on its way to a win in the final seconds, but an incredible, no-way-he-did-that tackle by linebacker Kavari Hillie at the goal line prevented it.
By this time, Salisbury was clicking on all cylinders, beating East Davidson (42-14) in the regular season finale, then North Surry (56-28) and Forest Hills (41-17) in the first two rounds of the 2AA playoffs.
In the third round, Berry came to Ludwig Stadium and made mincemeat of the Hornets in the first half, leading 21-7 at the break.
“Halftime was awful,” Pinyan cringed. “It should’ve been 24-7.”
Then, on the first play of the second half, Knox breaks off a 51-yard score. Salisbury outscores Berry 38-14 and wins 45-35.
In the Western final at home against traditional power Shelby, Salisbury was down 14-0 four minutes into the fourth quarter. The wishbone had accomplished absolutely nothing.
“We were 0-fer going into the last eight minutes,” Pinyan said.
It was over and the fans knew it.
Then, the wishbone offense produced three touchdown passes — that’s right, passes — in the last eight minutes and Pinyan was in the state title game.
One of the biggest plays was David Simons recovering his own onsides kick.
“You can do it a thousand times and that ball is going to bounce a different way every time,” Pinyan said. “It bounced just right for us.”
“(West Rowan coach) Scott Young will tell you and I will, too,” Pinyan said. “We might look like great coaches but sometimes, you better be dadgum lucky.”
There was nothing magical about the state title game. Salisbury beat Northeastern’s brains out. Pinyan’s players didn’t let him down after halftime, outscoring their foe 16-0 in a 30-0 thrashing. The Hornets had finished with 10 straight wins.
Just before the final horn, Pinyan thought, “It’s really going to happen.”
On the ride home, Pinyan realized when the Hornets won that title — after the loss to Davie in Week 6.
“I actually thought, ‘This season can be salvaged,’ ” Pinyan said. “I didn’t get flustered. That’s what we try to teach our staff. Kids can tell when you’re flustered. So don’t flinch. Don’t let ’em see it. We weren’t as bad of a team at 3-3 as it might look like. We hadn’t caught any breaks in the three losses (to Carson, West and Davie).”
Those same assistants made the right calls during all of the halftimes from that point on.
“I’ve never been around a staff that made so many adjustments at halftime and got kids to buy in,” Pinyan said. “You’re talking about 15 minutes. You’re telling them, ‘After all the practice and all the work, do this instead.’ ”
It was all part of a magical 10-game ride that put Salisbury right beside West Rowan as a state champion. And Pinyan is proud of that.
“At West, there’s not a kid who walks out of the locker room with that blue helmet on without thinking they’re going to win the football game,” Pinyan said. “That’s what is happening here.”
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