Friday Night Hero: West Rowan's Zeke Blackwood

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 7, 2011

By David Shaw
MOUNT ULLA — There’s no need to diagnose West Rowan’s Zeke Blackwood with amnesia.
But his teammates and coaches were certainly glad the sophomore linebacker was stricken with short-term memory loss in Friday’s 37-28 win over Salisbury. Redemption, you might say, never smelled so sweet.
“It had been a tough game,” Blackwood said following a midweek practice. “And then this ball was just there. It was just a play that needed to be made — and I made it. It was big.”
It was more than that. Blackwood’s fourth-quarter interception return for a touchdown gave West a nine-point lead and triggered a head-spinning 41-point final period at Ludwig Stadium.
“Zeke made one of the key plays of the game the other night,” head coach Scott Young said. “It changed the complexion of the game. It went from a one-possession game to a two-possession game, limited what they could do and gave us the momentum we needed.”
For Blackwood — a chisled six-foot, 190-pound converted defensive end — it was payback for a regrettable play that unfolded about an hour earlier. The game was scoreless in the second quarter when West, facing fourth-and-4 from its own 41-yard line, sent Blackwood and his 34.4 punting average out to launch his second attempt of the evening.
But what should have been a routine play turned disasterous when the snap from center rolled, sputtered and spun toward Blackwood. “I couldn’t pick it up,” he reported.
Then, with his back to the line of scrimmage, he panicked. And as Blackwood chased the ball toward the West sideline, Salisbury rocket Travis Byrd swooped in and returned it 16 yards for the game’s first touchdown.
“Just a bad decision by me,” Blackwood explained. “I should have picked it up and thrown it away. I should have done something. Still, I had to forget about it.”
Say this much for the kid — he’s got a great sense of timing. Blackwood did something special with West nursing a 17-14 lead early in the fourth quarter. The Falcons’ defensive line — led by Greg Dixon, Trey Shepherd and Troy Cuthbertson — had Salisbury retreating. On third-and-long from his own 34, SHS quarterback Brian Bauk sensed a blitz was coming. “I thought they would rush the box like crazy,” he said.
Instead, Young alerted assistant coaches Tim Dixon and David Hunt to watch for a screen to left side. Blackwood was promptly notified and astutely zoned in on Salibury tailback Dominique Dismuke, who was releasing out of the backfield.
“Somebody tried to block me. I think it was the tight end,” Blackwood said. “I just fought him off and made the play.”
Blackwood’s first varsity interception — and first TD — was picture-perfect. He stepped in front of Dismuke, swiped the ball clean and outran a couple of would-be tacklers down the right sideline and into the end zone.
“First I was hoping I wouldn’t fall down,” he said. “Then I was hoping no one would tackle me or knock me out of bounds.”
Losing coach Joe Pinyan refused to blame his quarterback, opting instead to toss Blackwood a verbal bouquet. “Brian did what he’s supposed to do,” he said. “Are we wrong for missing the block? I don’t know but the kid made a good play avoiding the block and getting to the ball.”
A good play — and one that will be remembered.