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Rhodes, Krider run with heart for Hornets

SALISBURY — Three games into this season, Salisbury had no wins, nine points and was averaging 78 rushing yards per game.
It looked in September like Salisbury might not taste victory, but today’s stat sheet looks different. Salisbury (2-8) has out-rushed each of the four CCC opponents it has faced, putting up 250-plus rushing yards in three of those contests, and the Hornets easily could have gone 4-0 in that stretch instead of 2-2.
The stats indicate serious improvement on both lines. The numbers also speak to the serious determination of Salisbury’s halfbacks — former offensive lineman Tim Rhodes and 112-pound Tony Krider.
Rhodes is 11th in the Rowan rushing stats, right behind Salisbury fullback Willie Clark, but that’s misleading.
Rhodes, who has 435 rushing yards, has played in all 10 Salisbury games, so his average per game is a modest 43.5 yards, but he’s been a ballcarrier in only the last seven. Quarterback Riley Myers handed off or pitched Rhodes the ball 14 times in the Lake Norman game on Sept. 13, when he made his backfield debut, and that’s also the night the Hornets’ offense showed signs of life for the first time.
“I was a tackle the first three games,” Rhodes said. “But I was a running back in elementary school.”
Salisbury coach Ryan Crowder was desperate for a spark, and it was apparent that Rhodes, listed at 6 feet, 173 pounds, had some speed.
“When we ran 40s or 50s, Rhodes was neck-and-neck with Krider and a little bit ahead of Clark,” Crowder said. “Rhodes was one of the two fastest guys we had, so we said, ‘Let’s make him a running back.’ We don’t have that big-play guy like we’ve had in years past, but Rhodes has become a grinding workhorse for us. He’s given us the ability to control the ball some.”
Rhodes hasn’t produced a 100-yard game yet, but he’s had a least 75 rushing yards four straight weeks. His 16-carry, 82-yard effort in Monday’s 42-12 home win against West Davidson was typical.
“I just try my hardest every play,” Rhodes said. “It’s all just trying hard and good blocks by the offensive line.”
Krider was happy to see Rhodes join the backfield.
“As soon as they moved him, I knew it would be a plus for us, and you can see a big change in the whole team,” Krider said. “He’s been putting points on the scoreboard, and I think everyone has faith in our running game now.”
Rhodes has seven TDs in his seven games as a running back. He also has contributed 186 receiving yards.
While Rhodes is a stout guy, Krider is so slightly built that you fear for his life every time he gets tackled.
“Well, the hardest I’ve gotten his this year was on the punt return team when we played South Iredell,” Krider said. “I’d never been hit like that, but I’m used to it now. I get knocked down a lot, but all I know is to keep getting back up.”
Krider limped off the field multiple times Monday, but he also turned in his best rushing night with eight carries for 62 yards. He has 194 for the season. He’s also a big factor in the passing game and leads the Hornets with 263 receiving yards.
“Tony is a little man, but he has a big man’s heart,” Rhodes said.
Krider and Rhodes scored two touchdowns apiece Monday. Krider located the end zone twice in the second quarter — on a 39-yard run and a 32-yard pass from Myers.
“I think on the pass play, no one ever saw me,” Krider said with a grin. “Sometimes no one sees me.”
On his rushing TD, Krider suddenly darted through a mouse-sized hole up the middle and was headed to the end zone in a blink.
Sometimes it pays to be small.
“Krider gives you everything he’s got,” Crowder said. “You ask him to stick it up in there on an iso play, and he does it. He can scoot, and he just has a whole heck of a lot of courage.”
Krider said he’s always loved football and his family has always encouraged him to play, rather than worrying about him getting hurt.
Together, Rhodes, Krider, Clark and Myers have pushed the Hornets over 1,500 rushing yards, and Salisbury no longer is at the bottom of the county stats.

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