This is the last of a series on spring football practices at Rowan County schools…
By Ronnie Gallagher
SALISBURY — It seemed like a marriage made in football heaven, this Joe Pinyan-Ryan Crowder hookup at Salisbury.
Pinyan was the head man, averaging 10 wins a season, always giving assistant Crowder a lot of the credit. They won a state championship together in 2010 and came awfully close last season.
But Pinyan left for nearby Carson, and who better to keep Salisbury among the state’s best 2A programs than Crowder.
Who knows the players better than he does? The 36-year-old has been at Salisbury since 2000, the last eight as defensive coordinator.
His first spring practice as head Hornet involved more paperwork and inventory but the same hard work in the weight room.
Not only did Pinyan leave Crowder but so did many talented seniors, including backs Justin Ruffin and Max Allen, each of whom had 1,000-yard seasons during their careers.
When asked who might be toting the rock in the fall, Crowder smiled and quipped, “I’ll tell you at the first game. It may be a group of people.”
It has always been a group effort. In fact, Ruffin and Allen were just two of 12 Hornets who accumulated carries in 2012.
Crowder added this isn’t the first time Salisbury has lost big-name wishbone rushers only to come back strong.
“We always had guys, who, when we lost them, someone stepped up to assume the role, he said. “There were times we rushed for over 3,000 yards and only had one guy over 1,000. The rest got between 700 and 900.”
Crowder is happy that many of his defensive starters return, including Clint Comadoll, Bobby Johnson, J.C. Burton, 270-pound junior Isaiah Little and Jordan Oglesby.
Offensively, he lost his backfield, but returns quality linemen in Malik Wilson, Tim Rhodes and Michael Dyson, along with 6-foot-4 tight end John Mark Petty.
Although the numbers in the senior class are down, Crowder has some Hornets getting looks.
Petty and the 6-foot-3 Comadoll are at the top of that list.
Comadoll could play linebacker or with his hand on the ground as a defensive end. Petty made several crucial catches during the stretch run of an 11-3 season and Crowder says he could be recruited as a punter.
“He’s got a heck of a foot on him,” he said.
Both need to pack some pounds on their 200-pound frames.
Of Comadoll, Crowder said, “It’s hard to keep weight on him because he plays soccer and tennis. He’s always running that off.”
Crowder likes the 6-0, 205-pound Johnson, who made an impact after coming up off jayvee. He could play outside linebacker.
“He’s not afraid of contact,” Crowder praised. “He makes pretty good breaks on the ball. He’s a smart kid who puts himself in the right position.”
Of course, Crowder knows the defenders. They’ve been his guys. But offensively, the wishbone will need to be hitting on all cylinders with this tough nonconference schedule.
“Our only 2A opponents will be in conference,” Crowder reported.
The opener will be against — say it ain’t so — Carson and Pinyan.
East Rowan, West Rowan, Lake Norman and South Iredell are the others.
“It makes it a little challenging,” said Crowder pointing out that in a couple of Salisbury’s most successful seasons, it lost four and five games. Don’t forget that in the state-title year, the Hornets were 3-3 after six games.
“What really matters is when conference rolls around,” Crowder said.
The Central Carolina Conference slate will include Thomasville, Lexington, West and East Davidson and North Rowan in the finale.
“We play North a little bit later than what we have in the past,” Crowder said. “They like to keep those rivalry games toward the end of the conference schedule.”
North had been 1A the past four years before coming back. Although the two played each season, it didn’t have that same oomph as in the past. Now it will.
“It means a whole lot more,” Crowder said. “As long as we both are doing well, it will be a good gate.”
Until then, Crowder will rally his assistants and players around and try to keep one of the state’s “name” programs in the limelight.
When Pinyan arrived a decade ago, he knew the way to win was to let the kids see how hard he was working.
As far as Crowder, they already know what type of worker he is. They don’t plan to let him down.
Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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