Gallagher column: Roaming the county

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Roaming the county getting ready for tonight …
TYRO — South Rowan may not be winning football games this year, but the Raider influence is helping West Davidson.
Brian Billings, a former South star and Carson coach, is in his second season with Dale Barnes’ Green Dragons, who play host to Salisbury tonight in the CCC opener.
“Anytime we can get a young man with a South Rowan upbringing, that’s good,” Barnes said Wednesday while he, Billings and athletic director Charles Elmore prepared the field at beautiful Glosson Stadium. “We’re 2-for-2.”
He was referring to Billings and former head coach Barry Mitchem, also a South grad, and now a Carson assistant.
“That’s 25 years of Coach (Larry) Deal and Coach (Reid) Bradshaw knowledge,” Barnes noted.
Billings has impressed Barnes because of his background. The 2000 grad of South was a lineman at Appalachian State.
“He translates that to our kids without running around talking about playing,” Barnes said.
Billings still lives in China Grove and always eats Sunday dinner with big brother Travis, another Carson assistant. They talk about football last week and football next week. Which is no surprise, considering their upbringing.
Dad Ken helped legend Steve Mabry at China Grove Middle for over 20 years and he kept stats for South.
“I was always at a football practice or a game in the fall,” Billings said. “From the time I was walking I was running around with a helmet on and a football in my hand.”
There was no doubt where his career was headed after being around Deal and Rick Vanhoy.
“I admired those men,” Billings said. “I decided early I wanted to play college football and be a teacher and a coach. I wanted to help build and mold young men the way they raised me.”

That brings us to tonight’s Homecoming game against Salisbury. He will call the plays against a powerful Hornet defense.
“They’ve got a lot more speed than we’ve got,” Billings admitted.
Billings has watched the resurgence of Salisbury football up close.
“When I was at Carson, and even in high school, they always had plenty of talent,” he said. “For some reason, they never quite had the team.”
What about Salisbury winning the 2010 state title?
“Last year, it all came together and they had a really good team,” Billings said.

Salisbury has a really good team this year, too, and Barnes knows it. He loves playing the Hornets.
“Those young men over there play with class” said Barnes, one of the most respected coaches in the state with almost 30 years of experience. “Our kids play the game the right way. They do, too. Before the game, everybody’s cordial. After the game, everybody shakes hands and goes home.
“The good thing about playing a team like a Salisbury or a Thomasville, they respect the game and understand how to play it.”

Billings is also the head track coach and is enjoying his time across the river.
At a smaller school, he said, athletes play two or three sports. So Barnes (“and I agree with him”) gives the Green Dragons June off to relax and be kids.
“It’s a little bit of a drive for me but I really like it here,” Billings said.

Salisbury-West Davidson is one of seven games in the Post coverage area.
Speaking of Homecoming, West Rowan is celebrating one against the ever-improving East Rowan Mustangs. North Rowan is at home against North Moore and Carson plays host to Statesville.
South Rowan is on the road at North Iredell.
Davie is also having Homecoming against Reynolds and A.L. Brown is home to Cox Mill.

On the air tonight …
• Hall of Famer Howard Platt and Chris Sifford will be at West on WSTP 1490 AM.
• Lance, Glenn, Johnny and the boys will be at West Davidson on WSAT 1280 AM.
• Carl Ford, the “Commissioner of High School Football” and The Coach, Bob Parker, will head to Olin with South.
Go to a game tonight, folks. And be nice.

Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or