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2011 Football: West and Salisbury are Lords of the Ring

SALISBURY — “Lords of the Ring” is the theme for this year’s football edition for obvious reasons.
Rings are symbolic of champions, and Rowan County football has produced a long line of title-winners, dating back to the undefeated, untied, unscored upon 1940 J.C. Price Red Devils, the undisputed kings of all the state’s black schools in the days of segregation.
Price routed Raleigh Booker T. Washington in the 1940 state title game. Legend has it that Washington, like Price’s previous 10 foes, never crossed midfield.
In the glory days of Ted “Shaky” Bush and Ernest “Mr. Touchdown” McCray, Price rolled to the 2A title for black schools in 1952 to cap a three-year run in which the only setback for coach Spencer Lancaster’s Red Devils came in the 1950 open-division title game.
Also unbeaten in 1951, Price, unfortunately, didn’t get the opportunity to play for a state championship.
Hickory Ridgeview was chosen to represent the Western half of the state instead, but Lancaster made it a point to schedule — and demolish — Ridgeview in 1952.
Playing in 3A, the state’s largest classification at the time, Boyden High won state titles in 1955 and 1957 for coach Bill Ludwig.
Titles continued to pile up when the great traditions of Price and Boyden were united with the Pete Stout-coached Salisbury High teams of the 1970s. Competing in the Western North Carolina High School Activities Association, the Hornets shared a championship with South Point in 1971 and were outright champions back-to-back in 1973 and 1974.
In 1969, East Rowan’s WNCHSAA champs became the first team in the county to go undefeated since the 1952 Price squad and the first ever to go 13-0.
Playing in the Division II state playoffs for conference runners-up in 1983, South Rowan, which had tied for the SPC championship, won three games to take the Western North Carolina title.
North Rowan reached the 3A title game in 1992, but then there was a drought until West Rowan entered the championship picture in 2008 with a surprise 3A crown, then repeated in 2009 with a record-setting 16-0 season.
Next came 2010 and much more history. Not just one championship, but an unprecedented two for the county in a single, scintillating day.
West three-peated in Raleigh. Roughly a hundred miles away and a few hours later, Salisbury returned to glory with a ring-romp in the 2AA class in Winston-Salem.
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In the 1960s and 1970s, it was considered a hip thing for college students to read British author J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy instead of the textbooks they were supposed to be mastering.
It was thrilling stuff but impossible to put into satisfactory movie form until computer generated imagery and digital special effects brought hobbits, wizards, dwarves, elves and orcs to the silver screen in director Peter Jackson’s three awesome spectacles released from 2001-03.
“Lord of the Rings” is the story of a quest to destroy the dreaded ring of power.
Frodo, an undersized hobbit, meekest of all creatures, is handed the daunting assignment of carrying the ring because he’s the kid with no ego. He’s the only one who won’t be tempted to use the ring’s power to boost his own ambitions.
An odd fellowship of companions made up of elements of all the good guys in the world — men, hobbits, an elf, a dwarf and a wizard — are his escort. They are the offensive linemen leading the blocking, only Frodo isn’t bound for an end zone, he’s headed for the fires of Mount Doom, where the evil ring was made, and thus, the only place it can be destroyed.
The body count of opposing orcs and Urak-hai (super-orcs), mounts as the movies motor along. The ring is destroyed. The world is saved. Goodness prevails.
Aragorn, a Lone Ranger when the movie begins, gradually accepts leadership responsibilities — like a good football captain — and is crowned king at the end.
The rest of the fellowship, notably the dwarf and the elf, grow from mistrusting one another into life-long buddies — a process duplicated in locker rooms every football season.
One of the great “Knute Rockne” movie speeches ever occurs in the final chapter. Theoden, king of the Riders of Rohan, an army of cavalry, arrives in the nick of time to rescue the besieged city of Gondor. The old man barks inspiration, smacks swords with his horsemen — the fist-bump hadn’t been invented yet — then gallops on the epic, shield-splintering charge that eventually ends his life but saves the day.

There was one speech last season in Rowan County that topped Theoden’s, and that was whatever Salisbury Joe Pinyan said to his guys at halftime of the Central Davidson game on Oct. 15. Salisbury trailed 37-27 on the road at the break, but won the second half 29-0.
That second half turned not just that game but the season. Salisbury didn’t lose after that. The Hornets, 3-3 at one point, finished with a 10-game winning streak.
West ringmaster Scott Young’s finest speech probably came before the season even started, when he challenged his guys to keep the tradition going even without graduated All-Americans.
There were plenty of doubters that West could three-peat, but, if anything, the Falcons were even more dominant. Just one West game was decided by less than 20, as B.J. Sherrill and Eric Cowan developed into stalwarts in the mold of Gandalf and Aragorn.

Can Salisbury do it again and can West Rowan somehow make it four straight?
Both teams lost powerful pieces, but both return numerous ringleaders.
Tailback Dinkin Miller, linebacker Logan Stoodley, receiver Jarvis Morgan, defensive linemen Maurice Warren and Greg Dixon and center Hunter Mashburn could be marquee guys for West.
Salisbury has proven superheroes returning in linebacker Kavari Hillie and halfback Dominique Dismuke. DB Tion McCain, linebacker Travis “Bang-Bang” Byrd, athlete Keion Adams and center Montana Harmon provide plenty of assistance.
The fun is about to begin all over again. We’re very lucky to have a ringside seat.

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