Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 4, 2013

By Ronnie Gallagher
LANDIS — You really can’t look back at many standouts when your team goes 2-8. But you can certainly look ahead at future standouts and South Rowan’s Jason Rollins did that during spring practice.
As the Raiders go into a new conference, he’s hoping to have new stars.
Like Hunter Meeks.


Rollins expected that response. And he smiled.
“Hunter Meeks is a name people will start hearing about,” assured Rollins.
So, we will give you the scoop now.
Meeks, No. 6 in last year’s program, was a starter in the defensive backfield as a junior. He is now a 6-foot-1, 185 pounder who is turning heads this spring. According to Rollins, Meeks attended the National Underclassmen camp and won MVP honors for defensive backs. He was invited to a Top 100 camp.
“Hunter may surprise some people,” Rollins said.

Brock Miller is another college prospect who has made himself into one. The rising senior offensive lineman has grown to 6-3, 240.
“He’s a big boy,” Rollins said. “A lot of college have come by talking about him.”
Rollins said Miller is exactly what you want in a college recruit.
“He’s got good grades, a good attitude and he has never been a problem.”
Meeks and Miller have urged the younger players to follow their lead.
“The juniors and seniors have worked really hard,” Rollins said. “They’ve all been in the weight room. They’ve put a lot of time in.”

That’s good, because South needs to be stronger in all phases. It is headed into a much tougher conference. The Iredell schools are gone, replaced by a successful group of teams from Cabarrus County.
“I’m excited,” Rollins said. “It will be a new challenge. Something different.”
And not just on the field.

“The drives will be easier, which will pull more people to the games,” he said. “When you get Concord and those schools, there are crowds.”

South has one of the toughest nonconference schedules around. While some 2-8 teams may try to get easy wins in lower classifications, Rollins says it wouldn’t help his team get better.
This group of opponents will.

The first two games will be against next-door neighbors A.L. Brown, (which moved up to 4A) and Northwest Cabarrus, along with Central Davidson, a 2A school from the Central Carolina Conference that runs some offensive formations no one can truly explain outside of Central’s camp. That comes in Week 9 of a 10-game schedule.
And what an opener? A.L. Brown?
“Why not?” mused Rollins. “Our kids are looking forward to it. They don’t think anything about it.”

Especially Aaron Kennerly, who had to replace an injured Nathan Lambert at quarterback last season as a sophomore. He flourished.
When Lambert sat out a quarter against West Iredell, all Kennerly did was complete both of his passes, one for a touchdown.
He was on his way. Kennerly followed up with a 209-yard passing game against West Rowan. A 237-yard night against East Rowan. He finished 57-of-109 for 786 yards with nine touchdowns to only three interceptions.
And when fall rolls around, it’s Kennerly’s team.
“A-Rod (Kennerly’s nickname) being back is a plus,” Rollins said. “He got experience under the lights on Friday night and he knows the speed of the game. He’ll pick up right where Nathan left off.”
In fact, Kennerly’s already showing his leadership.
“He’s very confident,” Rollins said. “When he walks on the field, he feels good. He doesn’t pull back.”
He’ll be taking snaps from center Jonathan Lambert, Nathan’s brother, who could also have a big season for South.

Rollins gave several sophomores a chance to play in 2012, and rising junior Burke Fulcher is already a two-year starter at linebacker. His number should be called often.
Fulcher was going to anchor a defense along with another junior Christian Neal. But Rollins reports he has lost Neal to A.L. Brown.

South’s jack-of-all-trades will be Tyler Fuller, a rising senior.
“He’s one of the fastest kids on the field,” Rollins said, noting the all-county baseball player can duplicate that feat on the gridiron.
“He can play running back, secondary or slot receiver,” Rollins said. “He can play anywhere. We have to figure out where he fits.”

Despite winning only five games the past three seasons, the Raiders’ heads aren’t down. They love their teammates, coaches and school and would love nothing better than to pull off what East Rowan did last year: a complete turnaround and become a playoff team.
“They just don’t give up,” Rollins said proudly of his guys. “A lot of it has to do with the coaching staff’s positive attitude, but the players have the same attitude that keeps us positive.”
Rollins is currently promoting his players like Meeks and Miller, adding, “we’re sending film out on some of the younger kids to get there names out there.”
When the new South Piedmont Conference begins in August, South’s name will not out there. That’s OK with Rollins.
He wants it out there at the end of the season.

Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or