Prep Football: Salisbury
By David Shaw
SALISBURY — Day 1 of Joe Pinyan’s 10th season as Salisbury’s head football coach began with a pleasant surprise Monday.
“First of all, I was really, really worried about the weather,” he said. “I thought we were gonna run into a lot of hot stuff and then get a downpour. But it was actually kind of cool. About halfway through I thought to myself, ‘Shucks, this has been a great night to practice.’”
Pinyan had other things to worry about after putting the Hornets through a 2-hour, 15-minute round of drills, techniques and exercise. Turnout was relatively light — only 72 prospective varsity and jayvee players were issued helmets and practice uniforms.
“We’ve got about 20 kids that we know are missing for one reason or another,” Pinyan said. “But we’ll be up around 100 or 105 before it’s all over and done with. We’re disappointed that all 105 aren’t here yet, but we understand that some of them are finishing up vacations.”
Quarterback Brian Bauk made it back for his senior season, despite playing a doubleheader on Sunday and pitching on Saturday for a travel baseball team at East Carolina.
“We had a great day today,” he beamed after working with the first-string offense. “At least, the offense did. It feels like we’re two weeks into the season even though it’s only Day 1.”
Bauk, who passed for 670 yards and ran for more than 900 a year ago, looked sharp in passing drills. So did senior running back Justin Ruffin, who moved with power and fluidity.
“It seemed like everyone was paying attention and doing what they’re supposed to do,” he said. “We handled our business.”
Although it’s impossible to connect all the dots before July has melted into August, Pinyan believes he’s found a stable mate for Ruffin in the SHS backfield.
“I think Braylon Dailey has realized he’s gotta be that other running back,” the coach said. “He’s really put forth the effort. He’s gotta be that guy and he knows it.”
No one has beefed up more than left guard Parker McKeithan. At 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds, the senior will be provide secret-service protection and pave roads for the backs at Ludwig Stadium, all while drawing the attention of college recruiters. A man of few words, he called yesterday’s debut “a good start.”
Salisbury’s offense averaged 40 points-per-game and lifted the team into the third round of the playoffs last fall — so an overhaul isn’t needed. But defense? That’s another story.
“Our defense is so young,” Pinyan emphasized. “We lost eight starters and the guys who are gonna have to play there are not game-tested yet. They’ve been in some jayvee games and up on varsity as eight-quarter guys, but they’re a question mark. Our offense is going to have to be really good the first three, four or five weeks to allow our defense to grow up. It might be a challenge, a work-in-progress, all year.”
Senior linebacker Keion Adams is a beacon in the darkness, but realizes the Hornets will have to be better without the ball.
“It’s not going to be perfect,” he acknowledged. “But at the same time, we’ve got a (strong) group of players and coaches. We weren’t hustling today, weren’t flying around. We’ve got a lot of playful guys on this team, but that will change soon.”
SHS is also dealing with the loss of offensive coordinator J.K. Adkins, who became head coach at East Wilkes High School. For now, Pinyan is overseeing the offense.
By sunset a first-day imprint had been made. Good, bad or indifferent, Pinyan and his staff have established a baseline.
“The best thing about today were all the smiles on their faces,” he said. “In 28 years of first-day practices, I’ve learned there’s nothing more important than leaving with a smile.”
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