Prep Football: Central forfeits change things for Salisbury
By Ronnie Gallagher
SALISBURY — A week ago, Salisbury was on top of the world. It was headed to Thomasville — which was having a miserable season by its standards— undefeated in the Central Carolina Conference and the clear-cut favorite to win the league outright. Central Davidson, which had beaten Thomasville and Lexington, was on its way to possibly its best season since 1979.
Thomasville beat Salisbury 34-27 on an 80-yard pass in the waning seconds to improve to 5-5 and 3-1 in the CCC. Çentral won also. All three teams were tied for first at 3-1 with one regular-season game left.
Now, fast forward a week. Thomasville is suddenly 4-0 in the CCC. And Salisbury has to beat East Davidson tonight and Thomasville lose to Lexington for Joe Pinyan’s defending 2AA state champions to even share the title. Why? Central self-reported a rule being broken and the result was four games being forfeited, one a 28-26 victory over Thomasville
A Central player had apparently falsified his address and the Spartans had to pay for it. Not earlier in the season. Now. Just before the playoffs.
Thomasville had the most to gain by turning in Central. The Lexington Dispatch reported that Dickie Cline, a Thomasville assistant coach, said that no one at his school turned in Central. He said Thomasville had nothing to do with this.
Salisbury coach Joe Pinyan said Cline approached him at the jayvee game last week before any of this went public and announced to him that Central Davidson had to forfeit games.
“Yes, the kid lied about where he lived,” Pinyan said. “And he should be punished. But did any of those other kids do anything wrong?”
No, but rules are rules and the NCHSAA makes sure they are enforced. Central is now 1-9. The Spartans won’t be going to the playoffs.
Pinyan can deal with the prospect of no outright title for Salisbury.
“Listen, we had our chance last Friday night,” Pinyan said. “We had the chance to do it on the field. I don’t want wins on paper. Sure, I’ll be pulling for Lexington (tonight). I’d by lying if I said I wasn’t. But I don’t want Lexington to do our dirty work.”
What really discourages Pinyan is the fact that Mark Hoover, his good friend who resigned at Central earlier this year for health reasons, had built the Spartan program into a contender. Pinyan felt terrible for players over at Sheets Bottom.
“Those kids had a heck of a year and now they have nothing to show for it,” Pinyan said. “Coaches are not going to go out there and intentionally cheat and cost their kids a season. I hate it for Mark Hoover. I hate it for (interim coach) Brad Morton. If you want wins on paper just so your record looks good, they need to reconsider what they’re doing to young men. They’re ripping their hearts out.”
Pinyan knows there’s a lot of speculation. There always is when teams are turned in. He also knows Central turned itself in.
So his mission now is to get his Hornets totally focused on his home game against East Davidson, which has suddenly shot into the playoff picture. The forfeits helped Bryan Lingerfelt’s Golden Eagles improve to 2-2 and 4-6. They’re experiencing the opposite of Central. They’ve been given new life.
“Two weeks ago, they were ready to take the pads off,” Pinyan said. “Now, they’re coming in here fired up and ready to play.”
Salisbury comes in assured of a playoff spot. It just doesn’t know if it will be a 1, 2 or 3 seed.
“The bottom line is, you take 64 teams,” Pinyan said. “They’re going to draw a line down the middle of it and say, ‘You’re big. You’re little. Go play each other.’ ”