Year of the linebacker
SALISBURY — Sure, it was the year of the running back in Rowan County, but to fans of defense, it also was the year of the linebacker.
Four defensive player of the year candidates emerged by the end of the regular season, all of them LBs — West’s Logan Stoodley, Salisbury’s Keion Adams, East’s Tyler L’Hommedieu and North’s Xavier Robinson.
The choice was Stoodley because he was viewed as the player most responsible for a 10-win West team allowing the fewest points in the county and for having, by far, the county’s toughest defense against the run.
Depending on whose school colors you’re wearing, however, you could make a case for one of the other three.
L’Hommedieu unofficially set a record for disrupting more third-down plays than anyone in history. Robinson anchored a North defense that allowed the fewest total yards in the county and the fewest passing yards in the county.
And then there was Adams, who was a unanimous choice as the county’s most talented player. No one else had his combination of size (230 pounds) and speed, and he’s probably the county’s best college prospect. He was the most versatile guy, playing anywhere from deep safety to the line of scrimmage, depending on the opponent. And his stats —he played in 13 of Salisbury’s 14 games, missing one with a concussion — were fantastic.
All-County Defense capsules (17) — 7 seniors, 10 juniors
North Rowan (5)
Oshon West, Sr. DL — The 6-foot-3 West is better known for what he does on the basketball court, but he was an imposing pass-rusher. Had a fumble return for a score in North’s big win against East Rowan and he scored two offensive TDs against West Montgomery. Recovered four fumbles to tie for county lead.
Xavier Robinson, Jr. LB — North’s defense improved by 9 points per game from 2011, and Robinson’s contribution was as big as anyone’s. Helped out with two offensive TDs and even ran back a kickoff for a touchdown. Two-time all-county pick.
Kasaun Coney, Jr. DB — Coney’s sensational season included six interceptions to tie for the county lead. He scored four TDs, one on a fumble return, two on punt returns and one on a kickoff return — a 95-yarder against East Rowan. He picked off two passes in the win against East Montgomery.
Mike Robinson Jr. DB — The safety picked off three passes, recovered two fumbles and blocked several kicks. He had a big blocked punt in the Albemarle game and returned an interception for a score against South Davidson, Was a key in North allowing just 74 passing yards per game.
Cecil McCauley, Jr. DL — Like all-county teammates Xavier Robinson and Will Robertson, McCauley is a standout wrestler. He tied for the county lead with four fumble recoveries, all in YVC contests. North compiled its best defensive stats since 1996, and McCauley was a big part of North jumping to eight wins.
West Rowan (4)
Logan Stoodley Sr. LB — Stoodley was in on a whopping 152 tackles, including 14 tackles for loss and seven sacks. He had 11 QB hurries and two defensive touchdowns and was named NPC Defensive Player of the year. Three-time all-county pick.
Bubba McLaughlin Sr. LB — McLaughlin had several dominating outings — the Carson game comes to mind — and was a big part of a unit that limited most of the county’s top backs. North’s Jareke Chambers had 19 rushing yards against West. Salisbury’s Justin Ruffin had 25.
Teoz Mauney Jr. DL — Mauney was mostly an unsung hero for the Falcons, but he came up big in some of the Falcons’ toughest fights, including the win at North Rowan. He had two sacks against Reidsville.
Najee Tucker Jr. DB — The athletic cornerback’s strong season included a fumble return for a TD against Mooresville and a pick-6 against West Iredell.
East Rowan (4)
Tyler l’Hommedieu Sr. LB — East Rowan’s defense was much stiffer than the numbers (21 points per game) may look like.
A rash of early-season turnovers and Statesville’s 59 points skewed the stats somewhat, but L’Hommedieu was the leader of an attacking unit that held eight teams to 14 points of fewer and limited high-powered Concord to 14 in regulation in the playoffs. Two-time all-county pick.
T.J. Jefferson Sr. DL — The 320-pound nose was instrumental in the success of East’s 3-5 stack defense.
Jefferson was an immense presence as East held six teams, including two playoff opponents, to fewer than 100 rushing yards.
Donte Means Jr. DB — Had five interceptions and made huge plays in East’s corner-turning season. Means’ game-changing pick-6 against West Rowan was one of the plays of the year. Returned the opening kickoff for a TD against South Rowan and had another interception return for a score against West Iredell.
Austin Hill Jr. DL — Was a game-changer at defensive end after moving from linebacker. One of the county leaders in sacks and tackles for loss. Hill had five tackles for loss, including three sacks, against Carson. He had four tackles for loss against South Rowan.
Keion Adams Sr. LB — Salisbury’s overall defense wasn’t special, allowing 23 points a game, the most ever surrendered by any Rowan team that won 10 or more games. But Adams was special. His eye-popping stats included 129 tackles, six interceptions, 10 pass breakups, three forced fumbles, 18 tackles for loss and eight sacks. He returned two picks for TDs and helped out the offense with four more TDs as a part-time fullback.
Scott Givens Sr. DL — One of a handful of veterans on the SHS defensive unit, Givens had his best outing against Lexington when he produced 11 tackles, including two sacks, and helped the Hornets force six turnovers.
Clint Comadoll Jr. LB — The 6-foot-4 Comadoll manages to shine for Salisbury’s football and soccer teams simultaneously every fall. He piles up tackles and had at least two double-digit efforts in county games. He also filled in as the Hornets’ punter when Jon Mark Petty missed some games early.
Myquon Stout Jr. DL — Powerful and explosive, Stout is a defending state champ in the shot put and a threat to win the discus, an event in which he placed third last spring.
Everyone either ran away from him or double-teamed him, but he was still Carson’s most productive defensive player.