Gill, McLean lead Salisbury’s victory over Lexington, 40-13

Published 2:01 am Saturday, September 22, 2018

By Marny Hendrick

SALISBURY — It was not a perfect game for the Salisbury Hornets Friday night at Ludwig Stadium, but it was certainly a complete effort.

Salisbury used just about every weapon in its arsenal to roll past longtime rival Lexington, 40-13, in a key Central Carolina Conference battle.

Sophomore quarterback Mike McLean finally got his offensive attack clicking on all cylinders as he ran for two touchdowns and passed for two more to speedy receiver Tyrone Johnson.

“Yeah, everything clicked tonight,” McLean said, after producing 137 yards passing and 48 rushing for the game. “We decided to come out tonight and execute like we can. When we do that with all our big guns, we can be good.”

And then there is Hornets’ senior receiver, defensive back and return specialist Cameron Gill, who earned state-wide performance of the week recognition last week from the NCHSAA for scoring touchdowns by kickoff and punt return and fumble recovery.

Last night, Gill kept his remarkable streak going. Midway through the first period, Gill returned a punt 58 yards for a touchdown, then in the second quarter, he took a kickoff at his own 12, broke down the left sideline and completed an 88-yard scoring jaunt to make it 20-6.

Gill also ran another punt return 56 yards for an apparent score in the third quarter, but it was called back due to a holding penalty — still an impressive feat.

“That is Cam Gill just doing what Cam Gill does, ” Hornets’ head coach Brian Hinson said with a grin. “When you have the ability he does, it is just normal for him.”

Gill, a man of few words, was fairly straight forward when asked exactly how and why he is having such success in returning kicks this season. “It’s vision, my blocks and my moves,” he said. Any fear? “None … I want the ball on every play.”

The win improved Salisbury to 3-2 overall and an all-important 3-0 in the CCC, tied with league powerhouses North Davidson and Ledford. The Yellow Jackets dropped their first league game and are now 3-2, 2-1.

Both teams came into Friday’s game with mirror image offensives, really heavily on a wide open spread attack and lots of passes. Thanks to Gill’s kick return heroics, Salisbury managed a 20-13 halftime lead after Lexington connected on a pair of second quarter scoring passes by sophomore lefty Tedric Jenkins.

Salisbury seemed in firm control late in the second period with a 20-6 lead, but Jenkins took advantage of a blown coverage to find senior receiver Chandler Downs wide open on left side for a 44-yard scoring play with 1:51 left.

It brought an end to an unusual half that saw both teams end up with negative rushing yards due to mishandled snaps and defensive losses. But the Hornets and Lexington combined for 22 pass completions for 210 yards and a pair of TDs.

“At the end of the first half, they kind of ran right up over us,” said junior linebacker Blaine Shellhorn. “So we just came out in the second half and shut them down. We played man defense and mixed in some blitzes to keep the pressure on them.”

Shellhorn notched a pair of sacks in the strong second half and the H0rnets shut down the potent Lexington offense.

“I was proud of our defense pitching a shutout in the second half against a really good offensive team, ” said Hinson. “The second half was a big improvement and we really got after it.”

Jenkins did have a strong passing night for Lexington with19 completions for 179 yards and the two scoring passes. But he was also picked off by  Luke Holland near the end of the first half then was the victim of a sack fumble by the Hornet defense in the fourth period.

The Hornets came out and took control of the game for good in the second half, forcing a short punt to put them at the Lexington 30. Three plays later, McLean scored on the keeper from the 10 and a 26-13 lead. The real clincher came later in the period when McLean found Johnson, sprinting 15 yards behind a defender, down the right sideline. The 46-yard scoring play made it 33-13.

“Everything worked out tonight the way we wanted,” said Johnson. “Out whole offense came together and made it last a whole game, so I am proud of all of us tonight. We still have a few things to work on but we are coming together.

Johnson led the aerial attack with his two TD receptions and 111 yards on five receptions. McLean scored the final TD of the night with 9:14 left on a 5-yard run.

“We have been waiting for Mike to have that game where he throws the ball really well,” Hinson said. “He did that for us tonight from the first drive of the game until the very end.”

Salisbury heads to Central Davidson next Friday night while Lexington will host Ledford.