2012 Football: East Rowan preview
By Mike London
GRANITE QUARRY — At first glance, East Rowan’s roster looks like everyone else’s — No. 2 through No. 99.
But on second glance, no numbers were assigned from 35 to 39 or 43 to 49 or 59 to 63 or 79 to 98. The Mustangs are shorthanded. There are just 34 able bodies on the roster sheet.
“We lost a few kids,” new coach Danny Misenheimer said, with a shrug of the broad shoulders that carried him to the 1999 Shrine Bowl. “We’re building a program, we’re working extremely hard, and sometimes you’ll lose a few.”
No one doubts that the straightforward, blue-collar Misenheimer will be a solid role model, but there is doubt about how many football games East can win in 3A with 30-something players.
Historically, East has been the toughest place to coach football in Rowan County.
Misenheimer is East’s 17th head coach, and in 53 years of football, there have been 17 winning seasons. East has won two playoff games in 20 years, and the last league championship was in 1997 when Misenheimer was on the squad.
Misenheimer is optimistic. He outworked opponents to become a stellar player, and he anticipates his team doing exactly the same thing.
“Typically, East Rowan isn’t going to have the athletes that leap tall buildings,” he said. “East typically isn’t going to have the fastest athletes, but there’s no reason we should ever be outworked. That’s something we can control.”
While East lacks quantity, it does have quality. East had only two all-county players when it went 1-9 in 2011, but it has both of them back.
Madison Hedrick figures to be on the field close to 48 minutes as a running back/defensive back/kick returner.
Tyler L’Hommedieu also will perform double-duty as a linebacker/tight end.
They’re fine players.
Schematically, East will look much different. Misenheimer has installed the split-back veer offense, which took Swain County to the 1AA state championship last fall.
Misenheimer is confident he has a junior QB in Noah Drye, who was born to direct the veer as an elusive runner and smart decision-maker.
The veer is a pound-on-the-ground offense, with the occasional pass providing big-play possibilities against DBs creeping up to handle the run.
Drye starred on the jayvees as a sophomore before performing admirably in four varsity games. He ran for two TDs against West Iredell and threw for two scores in East’s lone win against South Rowan.
“He’s a good quarterback, but what I really like is he took control when he got moved up,” Misenheimer said. “He’s a leader.”
Sophomore Samuel Wyrick is the top backup and probably will direct the jayvees.
Hedrick, who has shown fearless running ability as a kick returner in the past, will get plenty of carries.
So will explosive Calvin Edwards, who had bursts of brilliance as a sophomore and made the All-NPC team.
Edwards rushed for 370 yards, with nearly all of his production coming in NPC outings against West Iredell, North Iredell and South Rowan — games in which Drye directed the team.
“Calvin gives us a big speed threat,” Misenheimer said.
Jay Campos is the backup.
Starting wide receivers will be Jordan Phillips, a former QB who is a fine athlete, and senior Patrick Monroe.
Other wideouts are Thomas Farmer, Hunter Poston, Mason Doby and Sheldon Kaminski, who is also being looked at as a potential kicker.
The tight end position will be shared by L’Hommedieu and Dock Corpening, another talented, experienced player.
Misenheimer is pleased with his offensive line, a unit that has to fire out with precision to make the veer work.
The starting unit is set — left tackle Adrian Loper, left guard Daniel Jones, center John Novak, right guard Skyler Rabon and right tackle Donald Schlesselman.
“Four of them started last year, and we brought Novak over from defense to be our center,” Misenheimer said. “He’ll be the quarterback of the line. He has a lot of football knowledge.”
The concern with the offensive line is depth. Andrew Litaker is the only O-line reserve on the roster.
Defensively, East plans to employ a 3-5 “stack” defense, and again that switch should suit the available personnel.
The “stack” depends on a huge, strong nose to anchor a three-man front, and T.J. Jefferson fits that description. Not only that, East’s deepest position is linebacker, and the “stack” will get five of them on the field at the same time.
Upfront, Misenheimer expects Jefferson, All-NPC as an offensive lineman in 2011, to be a handful to block.
Cory Livengood and Robert Barringer will be the linemen flanking Jefferson. Livengood is a veteran. Barringer is a sophomore.
Tyler McCubbins and Jason Shuping provide depth.
L’Hommedieu, Corpening, Dalton Moose, Dustin Mowery, Joshua Moses (from Alaska), Bradley Newsome, Austin Hill, Michael Collins and Tyler Lloyd form the linebacking group, and there’s a ton of experience and toughness there.
L’Hommedieu and Moose made All-NPC. Corpening and Mowery had huge games.
“The linebackers are the strength of this team, along with our running backs,” Misenheimer said.
The defensive backs should be fine, with Donte Means manning a corner and Dalton Bost a returning starter, handling the solo safety position.
When Hedrick and Edwards lend a hand on defense, they’ll play in the secondary, and Moose is capable of playing either DB or linebacker. Dominique Morrow is another DB possibility.
East has plenty of seasoned seniors, and there’s also a reasonable chance Drye, Edwards and Corpening will blossom into stars as juniors.
East should do better this season than it did in 2011. How much better depends on injuries. The issue isn’t talent or experience — it’s depth.
“We’d love to two-platoon, but right now a lot of our guys work every day in practice on offense and defense,” Misenheimer said. “We know we’ve got to be in shape, and we can’t let anyone outwork us.”