Prep Football Practice: South Rowan thin on numbers
By Ronnie Gallagher
This is the second in a series on football practices at
area high schools.
Today: South Rowan
Football edition: Aug. 21
LANDIS — There was a time when South Rowan was the largest school in Rowan County and even moved up to 4A.
That seems like a century ago considering the Raiders enter this season in a 3A league but could easily be 2A.
Head coach Jason Rollins said recently that the Raiders were a sliver away from playing in the Central Carolina 2A Conference.
South apparently was one student over the 3A limit.
So the Raiders enter the season with the Southern Piedmont 3A’s smallest enrollment. South has lost so many athletes to Carson and A.L. Brown over the past few years, it’s almost mind-boggling.
“Our freshman class — I don’t know if we hit 200,” Rollins said.
Corriher-Lipe sent over only 14 players from middle school.
Undaunted, Rollins, coming off a two-win season, is turning to his talented senior class to lead this year.
“Our senior class is pretty solid,” Rollins said.
Lineman Brock Miller is a stud at 6-foot-4. Tyler Fuller is a speedy do-it-all Raider. Hunter Meeks has been a good defensive back. And Ryan Bringle will be counted on at linebacker.
“Tyler stands out,” Rollins said.”He’s just athletic. He’s a scatback. Miller is just good, ol’ farm-strong.”
DON’T NEED INJURIES: Meeks, who was a standout at several camps this summer, sprained an ankle during a scrimmage, although it isn’t thought to be serious.
But with every sprain, bump or bruise, you can almost feel Rollins cringe.
“The biggest problem we’ll face is, we’re thin in numbers,” he said. “We have to be in extremely good shape. And we need to stay healthy.”
JUNIOR ACHIEVEMENT: There are some juniors who aren’t too shabby either, and two of them, Aaron Kennerly and Burke Fulcher, are among the Raider captains.
Fulcher has started at linebacker since his freshman year.
Quarterback Kennerly had to replace an injured Nathan Lambert and shined in his first varsity action.
“As much as we put him under fire, and for him to have the confidence to go under the lights and do what he did, is pretty impressive,” Rollins said.
Kennerly has also taken the lead role on the field and in the weight room over the spring and summer.
What made Kennerly’s transition easier last season was quarterbacks coach Bobby Myers.
“He has such a good relationship with the quarterbacks,” Rollins said.
COMING ON STRONG: A junior who has made his presence felt in practice is defender Tyler Karriker, who can play outside linebacker or defensive end.
“We need to find a good spot for him,” Rollins said. “I’m really impressed.”
FORMER HORNET: Derrick Blackwell was slated to be a Salisbury running back but he has surfaced at South Rowan. Blackwell is a sturdy 5-foot-11, 195 pounds.
WHY IS THIS MAN SMILING? When taking the coaches’ head shots on Photo Day, assistant Joel Reyes was wearing the biggest smile. Why?
He and wife Amanda are expecting a child.
Reyes, by the way, is in his first season helping Rollins and he looks like he could still strap it on. He was a very good player during the Rick Vanhoy days.
“Joel was wide open,” Rollins, a long-time South assistant, remembers. “He’s a good coach communicating with the kids. He is really a positive influence.”
OTHER ASSISTANTS: Speaking of positive influences, anyone who has coached at South Point, where Rollins starred in high school, knows about winning. Rollins brought on brother Chip last year, and added Dave Wheeler this fall. They coached together at South Point.
Wheeler will be running backs coach.
He is also the brother of Humpy Wheeler.
Dennis Rivers also comes in from Monroe.
There are the familiar faces as well. On offense, Rollins will rely on Thad Chrismon, Jarrod Smith and Myers. On the defensive side, there are Jim Brooks, Ronnie Riddle and Chip Rollins.
NONCONFERENCE: South gets a test right off the bat when it travels to South Iredell in the opener. The Vikings beat Salisbury in the Western Final before winning the 2AA championship last season. They have moved up to 3A.
“You’ve got to start somewhere, don’t you?” Rollins said. “What we get out of our scrimmages will tell you where we are.”
The second week, the Raiders face A.L. Brown. Central Davidson comes later in the season.
CONFERENCE: Rollins is a big fan of the new league, pitting Rowan and Cabarrus schools.
“Money-wise, the Cabarrus schools will bring bigger crowds than the Iredell schools,” he said, referring to the old North Piedmont Conference.
South opens its conference season Sept. 13 against neighbor Northwest Cabarrus.