2012 Football: South Rowan preview
By Ronnie Gallagher
LANDIS — No sooner was the 1-9 season over in 2011 than the South Rowan football team began preparing for 2012.
“The commitment in the offseason said, ‘We’re not going to let this happen again,’ ” head coach Jason Rollins said.
It was a good sign that former successful Raiders were stopping by this summer to give encouragement. Everyone feels this is the year South returns to its winning ways.
A senior class that has seen plenty of action on the varsity joins a good junior class and a few sophomores who play beyond their years. They can’t wait to hit the field against Central Cabarrus on Friday.
“These players will fight through adversity,” Rollins said. “That first game is important. It sets the standard for momentum and this group can build momentum week to week.”
The first order of business is keeping quarterback Nathan Lambert healthy. The sacks mounted last year but he still threw for 1,792 yards and 14 scores.
When the team lost star running back Ricky Sherrill (now at A.L. Brown), Lambert had to shift focus. The running game was hurting.
“Nathan stepped up and did a lot,” Rollins said. “We stayed in games three of the four quarters.”
This year, he wants a four-quarter effort.
“We have solid running backs who will help,” Rollins said.
That starts with junior Antonio Hester, a 6-foot, 205-pounder who transferred in from A.L. Brown.
“He’s a hard-nosed runner who can get you those solid three, four yards,” Rollins said, adding Michael Childers was on jayvee last season. “I see both of those guys getting positive yards.”
Lucas Kincaid and Bryson Deaton will also see time.
Rollins plans to use Johnathan Lambert, Nathan’s brother, at center. Guards will be Andrew Mauldin (5-11, 230) and Ubaldo Villegas (6-2, 240). Tackles will be Clint Meece (6-0, 255) and Brock Miller (6-2, 200). Matthew Kendall (6-0, 215) can provide depth.
“Protection is a whole lot better,” Rollins said.
Meece is the leader of the offensive line.
“His work ethic shows in leadership to the other linemen,” Rollins said. “All summer long, he was one of those consistent people coming to work.
“Mauldin loves the game. He does everything we ask.”
Villegas has only played two years of football, “which means he came in without any bad habits,” Rollins smiled. “He could become one of those best-kept secrets.”
Rollins said Miller, a junior, has that “farmer’s mentality” He never gets tired.
This group should give Lambert enough time to get the ball to his receivers, who include versatile 5-10, 180-pound Drew Glenn. He is also a defensive back and backup quarterback.
“He’s really an awesome DB,” Rollins said. “We didn’t see him as a receiver, but as he gets older, we see the transformation. Drew’s going to be really good.”
Junior Tvadis Wesley, who came over from Salisbury, is another threat no one has heard about — yet.
“He can catch balls other people can’t,” Rollins said. “We’re excited to have him.”
Dominique Garlin, who had some memorable moments last year, Tyler Fuller, Blake Sechler, Deaton and Christian Voyles will also catch passes.
And then, there’s senior tight end Josh Medlin, South’s leading receiver last season (35, 688 yards). Vance Parker is also a tight end.
The 6-2, 195-pound Medlin clicks with Lambert.
“He is one of Nathan’s good friends,” Rollins noted. “They have always worked well together. The relationship between quarterback and receiver is what makes this group unique. They want success and they’ve worked for it.”
When South needs points from the kicker, Rollins can turn to seniors Abel Betancourt and Anthony Broadway.
On a 4-2-5 defense, the line should be a strength, led by 6-1, 200-pound beast Devin Mason, a defensive end. The senior should break out of the shadow of big brother Cadarreus, now a starter at UNC Pembroke.
“He has created his own destiny,” Rollins said. “I can’t say enough about him.”
Mason is the smallest of a line full of beef. Weston Faulkner (6-1, 305), Greg Keller (6-2, 240) and Jacob Stubbs (6-0, 205) join him.
Keller is a good story. He missed all of last season due to a knee injury in a preseason scrimmage.
“Some kids either say, ‘It wasn’t for me,’ and others push,” Rollins said. “He jumped on board and was in the weight room all summer long. He’s very consistent.”
Faulkner is the immovable object.
“I’m not sure many people are going to be able to move Faulkner,” Rollins chuckled. “He can keep people off the linebackers and we haven’t had that in several years. You’ll be surprised how quick his hands and feet are for such a big boy.”
Junior Dakota Smith (5-11, 220), B.J. Morrison (6-0, 260), and senior Zach Stirewalt (5-8, 195) will also see action.
Some coaches might fret about having two sophomores at inside linebacker but Rollins can’t wait to showcase Burke Fulcher (5-11, 195) and Christian Neal (5-11, 200).
“You watch them play and you’ll know they don’t play like sophomores,” Rollins said. “Both are strong and quick and complement each other.”
Senior Kincaid (5-10, 185) and junior Hunter Meeks (5-10, 185) will be outside backers.
Meeks was very impressive on jayvee last season. South coaches have put Kincaid in a spot he can be successful.
“And our backups are all solid,” Rollins said, referring to Ryan Bringle, Devin Sells, Dionte Tillman and Chandler Brown. Bringle started last year and will be in the rotation with the sophomores.
Glenn leads a secondary that includes Wesley, Sechler, Deaton, Spencer Matlock, Fuller, Ronald McGriff, Dequan Tillman, Bradley McClamrock and Alex Acosta.
That depth is a key.
“As young as we are, there are very few seniors in that group,” Rollins said. “They’re very solid. They’re coachable and they listen. They stop and ask questions.”
Last season team depth wasn’t there.
“It really put us in a bind,” Rollins said. “A kid went down and our answers were limited.”
Rollins has pointed to this season and it’s without a doubt the best team he’s fielded since a 9-win campaign three years ago. The senior Raiders want the Big Red Machine to return.
“Our kids want to be able to leave a statement,” Rollins said. “They want everyone to know South Rowan is still here after having a few bad years.” They remember when we were on a roll and that’s what makes it exciting.
“They know South Rowan can win.”