Friday Night Legend: Chris Corriher
By Mike London
They weren’t necessarily bigger or faster than the opposition, but they always were more physical and they were never out-prepared.
They limited mistakes, they ran the ball right down your throat and they played defense like supper depended on it.
If that sounds like the formula for West’s Rowan current run of success, well… it should.
But three decades ago that’s how they were getting it done at South Rowan. Under coach Reid Bradshaw and his disciple Larry Deal, South enjoyed 15 straight winning seasons – from 1974-84 in 3A and 1985-88 in 4A.
“The criticism of those teams that I hear is we were too conservative,” said Chris Corriher, who started at defensive left tackle for the Raiders from 1980-82. “All I know is that we won a lot more than we lost.”
Corriher grew up watching Greg Poole and his teammates roll up wins at South in the late 1970s, and it filled him with awe and pride.
“They won so much it put a fear of losing in you,” Corriher said. “But we were very well-prepared in junior high by coaches like Steve Mabry and Don Bost. We learned how to be physical early on. We ran the same offense and defense they used at South, so when we got to South, we were ready to keep it going.”
Corriher’s turn came earlier than he expected. He was one of five sophomores Bradshaw kept on the 1980 varsity roster.
“Injuries thrust me into a defensive line spot very quickly,” Corriher said.
The second game of Corriher’s South career was against A.L. Brown. The Wonders were 4A in 1980 and arguably had the most talented team they’ve ever put on the field. The roster included, among others, longtime NFL players Ethan Horton and Lance Smith.
“I weighed 185 that year, and Horton was a 220-pound quarterback,” Corriher said. “Kannapolis was an awakening for me.”
South lost 35-0 to the Wonders, but it won its next eight, including hard-nosed victories against Concord and Central Cabarrus to take the SPC championship.
In the first round of the 3A playoffs, however, the Raiders were ousted by the best player Corriher ever saw – Lexington back Joe McIntosh.
Corriher practiced three times a week against South’s own outstanding tailback Michael Ramseur, but McIntosh was mind-boggling.
“He was a strong guy, about 190, but it was his vision and his ability in the open field that made him special,” Corriher said. “Maybe if you could have frozen time, you might have been able to reach out and touch him, but that was the only way you could even get near him. When he got to you, you were already done. His eyes were already looking downfield for the next guy.”
South nearly won it.
“That was the game that put Ramseur on everyone’s radar (145 rushing yards) and we were up 15-14 late in the game,” Corriher said. “We had them fourth-and-29. But then they got the ball to McIntosh and he gets the first down and then he gets out of bounds. Then McIntosh kicks a field goal and beats us. The score of that game was Joe 17, South 15.”
As a junior in 1981, Corriher had beefed up to 200 pounds and was part of one of South’s greatest defenses. South allowed 45 points in the 10-game regular season. South’s defense produced five touchdowns that year and nearly outscored the opposition’s offense.
The opening game set the tone. North Rowan drove the field for a touchdown on its first possession.
“We got together after that and said we couldn’t let it happen anymore – and we didn’t,” Corriher said.
North won 17-7, but South’s defense kept its vow. It would not allow another long scoring drive the rest of that season.
“They called our defense a 5-2, but it was like today’s 3-4,” Corriher said. “Jeff Barringer (a defensive end who went to Duke) made all kinds of big plays. Our linebackers Donny Spainhour and Joe Crapster were really good. Crapster was going 100 miles an hour. He was a big-time hitter.”
Bradshaw focused on offense, trusting coordinator Steve Beaver to handle the defense. Tim Corriher, fresh out of Catawba, was the defensive line coach.
“We practiced Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday really hard against our offense, with the thinking that we wouldn’t face anyone better than them and they wouldn’t see anyone more physical than we were,” Corriher said.
It worked. South beat Concord, Central andA.L. Brown, which was back in the SPC. Barringer scored the first touchdown in the Concord and A.L. Brown games, scooping fumbles and taking the ball all the way.
Corriher, all-county in that championship season, had his own claim to fame. He may be the only defensive lineman in history to intercept a pass three straight weeks. He had picks against Northwest Cabarrus, Central Cabarrus and A.L. Brown.
“The interceptions were because I was such a bad pass-rusher,” Corriher said with a smile. “The Central game I’d gotten punched in the throat and couldn’t breathe, but I was still pursuing and the guy threw it to me. I caught the ball and fell straight to the ground.”
Corriher’s interception against NWC was a pick-six.
“Barringer had the quarterback under duress, and I saw the fullback waving his hand,” Corriher said. “I stepped in front of him and caught the ball. Our band was in the end zone getting ready to take the field for halftime, and they waved me in.”
It doesn’t get any better than that for a defensive lineman.South’s 10-2 season included 10 straight wins between the loss to North and a second-round playoff loss to Mt. Airy. MA receiver James Brim, the same guy who would knock North Rowan out of the playoffs a year later, made the difference.
Corriher went to college at N.C. State. McIntosh was there as well. He rushed for 3,642 yards for the Wolfpack.
“And Joe did what he did playing on a bunch of 3-8 teams,” Corriher said.
Corriher still avidly supports South where his daughter, Lynsey, plays volleyball and basketball.
His son is on the way.
Cameron Corriher made his debut as China Grove’s quarterback on Wednesday, and he threw a touchdown pass on his first snap.
Maybe the good ol’ days will be back at South before you know it.