High school football: Hornets will count on stellar defense
Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 19, 2021
Last in a series of reports on local high schools …
By Mike London
SALISBURY— Can Salisbury make it back-to-back state titles?
That’s what everyone wants to know.
It will be challenging. Partly because the classifications no longer will be subdivided for the state playoffs. If you want to be the 2A champ, now you’ve got to beat everybody. In 2A that means handling Reidsville, Shelby, Burns and Monroe, among others. Reidsville wiped out Mountain Heritage for the (small) 2A state championship a year ago, while Salisbury was taking care of business in 2AA.
Salisbury’s defense will be good enough to go the distance again. There’s not much doubt about that.
Zae Clay, a two-time Lineman of the Year in the Central Carolina Conference is gone, but Salisbury has a handful of special guys on defense and has seasoned veterans at all three levels. Jalon Walker is Jalon Walker, one of the best prep outside linebackers in the nation, and there are studs all around him.
Salisbury’s kicking game, featuring Wade Robins, will be strong enough for anothe run.
“Not many high school teams are going to be sending a guy out there to try a 50-yard field goal,” head coach Brian Hinson said. “We can do that.”
Offensively, Salisbury graduated explosive quarterback Vance Honeycutt (24 rushing TDs), but moves forward with sophomore Mike Geter, who promises to be equally explosive.
“Geter had a couple of huge rushing games late in the year and if you look at our state championship game, every time he touched the ball it was a big play,” Hinson said. “He has a lot of ability. He’s got a chance to do some really special things for a long time.”
Geter came out on top in a spirited QB competition with junior Jerome Blakeney. Blakeney would be starting most places.
Salisbury is in fine shape at running back and receiver, so Geter won’t lack for weapons.
Marcus Cook (35 catches, 5 TDs) returns as a big-play slot receiver. Jayden Gibson, extra fast, usually will man the other slot. Deuce Walker, who had two TD catches, returns as one of the outside receivers. Kevin Williams, a 6-foot-2 receiver who transferred from Leesville Road (Raleigh), is expected to make an immediate impact.
JyMikaah Wells (234 carries, 1,472 yards, 16 TDs) is a relentless workhorse of a running back at 5-foot-10, 214 pounds.
“He’s had a really good fall,” Hinson said. “He’s gotten faster. Now we just have to figure out who’s going to block for him.”
Salisbury lost four starting offensive linemen, so that’s the position group that has Hinson most concerned. Bryan Rosado is the lone returning starter.
There are a lot of people competing for 0-line jobs, so the job probably will get done via a rotating committee. Twins Anthony and Antonio Young will be in the mix. Hinson also is counting on Daquavius Thompson, Christian Zavala, Chris Green and Jeremiah Blackson. Some youngsters who will open the season with the jayvees could be factors later in the season.
Defensively, the Hornets are set. It’s going to be tough moving the ball on them.
Nose guard Nick Hall (6-1, 285) and Anthony Dodd are going to be beasts in the middle on the defensive line.
Reed Fugle and DJ Adams (Keion’s brother) are the starting defensive ends, with DeShawn Brown also being counted on for significant snaps.
Salisbury’s linebackers should be a pain to play against and a joy for SHS fans to watch.
Georgia commit Jalon Walker (6-3, 220) plays the “Hornet,” which usually means he’ll line up as an outside linebacker, but he could be a defensive end in certain matchups. He even showed up as a free safety last season.
On the inside, Jaden Gaither (6-2, 210) is being recruited by some schools and would be the main man on most teams.
“Everyone knows about 11 (Walker) and he is who he is, but there are games where our opponents come out of it wondering who the heck 32 is,” Hinson said. “Gaither is a great, high-energy player.”
Inside linebacker Amare Johnson (5-11, 220) also plays at an all-conference level.
“He’s tough,” Hinson said. “A very physical inside backer.”
There aren’t any worries in the secondary, either, at least as long as the two-way guys who also are receivers can stay healthy. They’re going to be busy.
Corner Deuce Walker, Jalon’s younger brother, is a sophomore but is picking up D-I offers already. He had a pick-six in the spring.
Gibson mans the other corner.
Weakside safety Zae Neal is one of the team’s unsung stars.
“He’s a lot of the glue who holds us together,” Hinson asid. “He’s versatile, allowing us to do some different things and line guys up in different ways. He’s also one of those guys who is always in the right position.”
The strong safety will be Savion Freeman.
Cook will help out some in the secondary. He’s a solid return man, as well. Geter may turn up as a DB at times, the way Honeycutt did last year.
Put it all together and it should be one heck of a team.
“But it all starts upfront and we’ve got work to do on the offensive line,” Hinson said. “Defense has been our strong suit for a while. With our defense, we always should have a chance.”
The Hornets will be expected to win the conference. When the playoffs arrive, they’ll be a tough out.
Coach: Brian Hinson (5th year, 36-14 at Salisbury, overall record 53-33)
2020 record: 9-2 overall (4-2 2A Central Carolina Conference, tied for 3rd)
2020 ranking in state: 15th out of 405
2020 ranking in 2A: 2nd out of 112
Playoffs: 4-0, battered St. Pauls 42-14 to win 2AA state championship
New conference for 2021-25: 1A/2A Central Carolina with North Rowan, Thomasville, South Davidson, East Davidson, West Davidson and Lexington