Prep Football: Pinyan taking wishbone to Carson
By Ronnie Gallagher
CHINA GROVE — The wishbone is staying in Rowan County — it’s just moving down the interstate about 11 miles.
Salisbury’s Joe Pinyan, who made the option and 300-yard rushing games a weekly occurrence at Ludwig Stadium, will now try for the same success at 3A Carson. He has accepted the head football coaching job there, replacing Mark Woody, who recently resigned to become the Cougars’ athletic director.
“It goes everywhere I go,” Pinyan smiled when asked about the wishbone. “It’s all I know.”
Salisbury certainly made the most of it. In 10 years, Pinyan averaged 10 victories a season, winning his 100th game during the 2012 playoffs.
“It was all about buying in to what we were doing,” Pinyan said. “That will happen at Carson. They’ll buy into it.”
He shouldn’t worry. Two of the Cougars’ offensive stars, running back Brandon Sloop, a 1,000-yard rusher last year as a sophomore, and junior quarterback Austin McNeill, the county’s leading passer, seem pumped.
“We’ll pound the ball,” Sloop said. “I like that. I’m excited. He’s a good coach and a good guy.”
McNeill smiled broadly when asked about directing the wishbone attack.
“I’ve thought about it and I’m excited,” McNeill beamed. “I’m excited about everything that’s coming this fall. It’s something new. It looks like a fun offense to run.”
Pinyan said he’ll have an easier time saying hello to his new team than he did bidding farewell to his beloved Hornets on Monday morning.
“That’s one of the things you think you’re ready to do, but you’re never ready,” said Pinyan, who became emotional when he talked to them. “There is never a good time. There are certain kids you don’t want to leave behind or the friendships you’ve developed. We put our heart and soul into this. I can honestly say we’ve been a passionate staff. These kids have accomplished great things.”
Like winning the 2AA state championship in 2010. And coming close several other times.
Which was amazing considering the state of the program when Windsor Eagle brought him over from Mooresville in 2003. It was in a shambles, to say the least, and Pinyan immediately turned things around.
Now, it’s time to try to re-create the same magic at Carson.
Pinyan said having Woody as the AD can only help him. They go back a long time, even coaching together as assistants at Mooresville.
Asked what it would be like to join forces again, Woody laughed, “There won’t be a dull moment.”
Woody said it was unusual for a coach to step down but still be at the school. As Pinyan arrives, that’s a good thing.
“The things I feel I can help him with are the question marks we had and where our weaknesses and strengths are.”
Pinyan has been sought by several schools over the years. He was offered the head job at 4A Watauga in Boone a couple of weeks ago. Even though he is an Appalachian State grad, he turned it down.
“It was too far to move and we couldn’t make it work for the family,” Pinyan said. “This, we can. There are a lot of similarities at Carson with what was offered at Watauga.”
Pinyan said the coaching staff at Carson has done a good job and he’ll look forward to working with principal Kelly Withers.
“I think Kelly Withers, in a lot of ways, is similar to Dr. Eagle,” Pinyan said. “She puts academics and athletics in the same big bowl. She wants each to be successful.”
Ironically, when Carson opened seven years ago, Pinyan said he applied.
“It was always in the back of my mind, but I knew Mark was younger than me and would probably last a lot longer. I didn’t think I’d get a shot at it. This is a perfect fit in my career to close one chapter and go to another.”
Pinyan will teach P.E. but said he didn’t know if he’d go to China Grove before the end of the year or stay at Salisbury. Those details are still being worked out.
Until then, he will go to Carson in the afternoons and implement his weight-lifting program. He said he is anxious to start working with his new players.
“Coach Woody had a lot of praise for the team coming back,” Pinyan said. “They’re not bad. They have kids who have a passion to be better. We want to make Carson a winner every year.”
Pinyan said the same thing when he went to Salisbury a decade ago.
He’s expecting the same results 11 miles down the road at Carson..