Prep Football Playoffs: Salisbury 35, Starmount 6
By Ryan Bisesi
BOONVILLE — Salisbury had to drive a long way up I-77 to get to Starmount Friday night.
When the Hornets were on the field, they didn’t have to go far at all.
Salisbury got the ball in Starmount territory on its first three drives, putting the Hornets in prime position to take early command in a 35-6 walkthrough at Starmount in the second round of the state 2A playoffs.
Dominique Dismuke and Justin Ruffin ran for two touchdowns each. Both now have 22 on the year.
“Somebody told me at halftime we had 60 yards rushing,” Salisbury coach Joe Pinyan said. “People are going to think we’re sick. We weren’t going to get any yards on that short field.”
The Hornets had touchdown drives of 36 and 46 yards in the first half, not duplicating the video game-like stats from last week, but also eliminating any dramatic conclusion.
Salisbury (11-2), which lost three fumbles last week against Carver, kept the ball tight and didn’t let it hit the ground once.
“That’s one of the things we stressed this week,” Pinyan said. “We got after their tail and yelled and screamed a little bit. That’s probably why I don’t have a voice right now.”
Salisbury rolled away with a 21-point final quarter to break open a one-score game. Ruffin’s 53-yard touchdown rush on an outside pitch started the onslaught with 10:26 left.
“It was good blocking by the line,” Ruffin said. “I just read my blocks and I was able to have a cutback lane.”
Dismuke led all rushers with 105 yards on 14 carries for his fifth 100-yard effort of the season. Max Allen needed 60 yards for 1,000 on the season and wound up with 46 on 10 carries. Allen broke a school record last week with 294 yards. Against Carver, Salisbury needed heroics from Allen and DeJoun Jones, but this one was surrounded by sound defense and the quartet of Dismuke, Ruffin, Allen and quarterback Brian Bauk. Salisbury won the field position battle and controlled time of possession with methodical drives. The Hornets punted only once.
“We’ve felt all year that our defense is what we need to hang our hat on,” Pinyan said. “We felt like our defense could play with their run game.”
Bauk completed 4 of 8 passes for 65 yards with one interception.
The Hornets earned another shot at CCC rival Thomasville, a 28-16 winner against Wilkes Central, in the third round next week.
Starmount (11-1), the top seed in the midwest pod and unbeaten coming into Friday was without starting quarterback Christian Hurt, who broke a vertebrae in his neck last week. The Rams, 6-0 at home, managed 122 yards rushing and didn’t complete a pass.
“It was a very emotional week for our kids,” Starmount coach Scott Johnson said. “We needed a few breaks against a very good football team and we didn’t get them.”
Tight end Ben Ritchie caught a 33-yard pass on a rollout from Brian Bauk to set the Hornets up at the Starmount 1. Bauk snuck it in one play later for the game’s first points.
After a Starmount drive stalled, Salisbury got the ball back at the Ram 46. Dismuke had a pair of 10-yard runs on the drive and capped it with a 3-yard touchdown run.
The Rams were held to three-and-outs on their initial three drives, but composed themselves early in the second quarter. An 18-play, 63-yard drive lasted 9:26 and resulted in a 2-yard rush into the end zone by Fondae McDaniel. The kick was no good and the score remained 14-6 at halftime.
After the break, Salisbury held Starmount to three first downs. The Rams managed just 61 yards of offense in the second half.
“I expected the misdirections and the traps tonight,” Salisbury linebacker Kavari Hillie said. “I know the wing-T like the back of my hand.”
Salisbury took over at its own 38 with 8:50 left and got an 11-yard run from Dismuke on third-and-1 to put it in Starmount territory. Ten and 17-yard bursts by Dismuke helped set up first-and-goal at the 5. Ruffin took it in for a 28-6 edge with 3:27 left.
Dismuke capped the scoring with a 1-yard push with 54 seconds left.
Two nights after scoring the game-winner for Salisbury soccer, B.J. Woods grabbed an interception to cap the night in the final minute. Starmount’s takeaway came on James Watson’s interception off a deflection in the end zone.
McDaniel, who wore Hurt’s No. 5 jersey in honor of his injured teammate, gained a team-best 47 yards on the ground. Starmount quarterback Samuel Stone threw just four passes, all of which were incomplete.
“We’re starting to play to perfection like championship teams are supposed to,” Hillie said.