Shaw column: The silent sounds of defeat

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 18, 2011

THOMASVILLE — We all know there are times when silence has the loudest voice. Times like Friday night.
The only sound in Salisbury’s post-game dressing room was the hush and stillness of defeat, the sound of a year-long reign as state champion being gaveled to a close.
“I can’t believe we didn’t make it back,” said Joe Pinyan, the maestro who conducted last year’s symphonic run to the crown. “The truth is there are only going to be so many guys who win the last one.”
Here’s another truth: it won’t be the 2011 Hornets. Salisbury played a fractured third quarter at Thomasville’s Cushwa Stadium, coughed up a 16-7 halftime lead and unexpectedly found itself on the losing side of a season-ending handshake line.
“Our plan from the beginning of the season was to win another state championship,” senior Dominique Dismuke mustered while fighting back tears. “We worked hard to get here. It’s a big burden on your heart when you work so hard for something — and don’t get it. We just weren’t ready to go home.”
Instead, the Hornets are purged from the playoffs three rounds deep, the same depth they reached in 2009 when their season ended a foot-and-a-half from the goal line at Newton-Conover. This one wasn’t the same breathless race to the finish line, but it stung just as much.
“It didn’t really hit me that we were going to lose until the last minute-and-fifty-something seconds,” linebacker Kavari Hillie said after his menacing, sideline-to-sideline performance. “But it’s playoff time. You’re gonna get everyone’s best shot every time. And they gave us their best shot.”
Thomasville certainly had help. Salisbury turned the ball over three times in the second half and lost starting quarterback Brian Bauk, who dislocated his left shoulder after throwing an interception on the final play of third quarter. Enter little-used backup Jon Hall — but that was like slapping a Band-Aid on a gaping wound.
“Everyone on this team wanted a shot at another ring,” he said after completing just one of seven fourth-period passes. “I came in prepared to make that happen. But Thomasville, they had some intimidating dudes. They showed us how good Thomasville is.”
The Bulldogs weren’t the better team in the first half, when Salisbury pedaled its multiple-option ground game with precision and punctured Thomasville’s defense for 157 rushing yards.
The first series of the second half — an SHS possession that ended with three straight negative-yardage plays — left Pinyan feeling a bit uneasy.
“They were bringing some linebackers in different places,” he explained. “And we were prepared for that. But they didn’t do it until right before the half and then kind of came after us pretty good in the third quarter. They’ve got great athletes and they let them play.”
The additional pressure stymied Salisbury’s inside-and-out running game and bought the hosts some much-needed recovery time. Up in the pressbox, removed from the madness on the field, one could sense the Hornets slowly unravelling. First came a Thomasville 40-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-8. Then a Salisbury fumble that proved inconsequential. Then a 75-yard punt return for a back-breaking TD. And finally, Bauk’s devastating injury as he saved a score bringing down the Bulldogs’ Quindale Williams.
“We thought we were good enough to survive,” senior Montana Harmon said after Salisbury capsized in a sea of red & black. “But we weren’t. We got outplayed. It was the mistakes — again.”
Back in the post-game dressing room players buried their heads in their hands, struggling to accept their football mortality. There was no need for words, though a few tried to justify the outcome.
“It’s all about heart and desire,” said DB DeJoun Jones. “This game, this season wasn’t supposed to end like this. But you want to win, you’ve got to play two halves.”
“This is where it ends,” added Hillie. “It’s not the end of the world. There will be another football season.”
The final lyric was penned by Pinyan, who couldn’t find anything in his bag of tricks to solve the Hornets’ second-half riddle.
“It’s never fun to see it end,” he said. “You’ve just got to put on that face and go on. But deep down inside, it hurts a bunch.”