High school football: Cook’s recipe includes Salisbury receiving records

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 16, 2021

By Mike London


SALISBURY — Being a Salisbury receiver has been mostly a thankless job, well … forever.

There have been outstanding quarterbacks in the football program, but they’ve generally been asked to do more with their heads and legs than with their arms.

“When you can run the ball, you can control the game,” Salisbury head coach Brian Hinson said. “We want to run the ball.”

Salisbury almost always has. The school’s most successful teams were run-heavy.

The program’s career passing yards leader, John Knox, threw for 3,200 yards from 2007-10, but he’s only 20th on the all-time county list.

Of course, Knox also ran for 2,296 yards in former coach Joe Pinyan’s option offense.

Salisbury’s career pass-catching records are quite modest compared to other schools in the county.

You may be surprised to learn that Salisbury’s all-time leader in receiving yards is on the current roster. His name is Marcus Cook, and with 930 receiving yards already in the books, the senior should become the Hornets’ first 1,000-yard receiver in the next week or two. The county as a whole has produced 41 1,000-yard receivers, with seven of them surpassing 2,000 yards.

Cook also is on the verge of breaking the school record for receptions. Cook has 63. Ryan Jones, the favorite target for QB Riley Myers, had 66 catches from 2013-14.

Cook had 24 catches for 346 yards and three touchdowns as a sophomore. He had 35 catches for 497 yards and five TDs as a junior. This season he has four catches for 87 yards and a TD. He’s also run for 129 yards and a TD.

In last week’s 53-0 win against South Rowan, Cook had a punt return TD and a receiving TD, both in the third quarter.

Cook was third in the 2A State Track and Field Championships in the spring with a triple jump effort of 42 feet 5 inches, an indication of how talented an athlete he is. He knows he’ll never get the number of targets that receivers such as North Rowan’s Amari McArthur and West Rowan’s Peter Williams-Simpson do, but he understands Salisbury’s run-first offense. And it’s hard to argue with success. Salisbury was state runner-up in 2019 and state champ last spring.

“I know I might only get one or two chances to catch a pass every game, so I have to make the most of every chance,” Cook said. “Mostly, I’ve got to block as hard as I can.”

Vance Honeycutt, second on Salisbury’s all-time passing yards list, was responsible for getting the ball to Cook the previous two seasons. Now Cook is the veteran half of a pass/catch partnership with sophomore QB Mike Geter.

“Geter has been perfect,” Cook said.

Geter already owns a county-leading eight rushing touchdowns. He’s thrown fewer than 10 passes in every game, but he has four touchdown passes.

“We threw eight times last week, two for touchdowns,” Hinson said. “When 25 percent of our passes are touchdowns, we’ll take that every time.”

Hinson recalls that Cook saw his first varsity action as an undersized linebacker as a freshman in 2018.

Cook, who has grown now to 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, has played quite a bit in the defensive secondary for the Hornets during his career, although he’s being used almost exclusively on offense and special teams this season. He’s being used more as a running back than he was in the past, and he had several explosive plays in the opener against Polk County.

Against East Rowan, Cook scooped a wayward option pitch and sprinted 40 yards to the house.

“I don’t know if that was Mike Geter or me, but the timing was off and I was too far behind him on the pitch,” Cook said. “Fortunately, I got a good bounce and took it in.”

In the South game, Salisbury showed it can throw when it needs to.

“They were stacking the box against the run and blitzing linebackers off the edge,” Hinson said. “We were kind of beating our heads against the wall, so we came out throwing early in the second half. Our first six or seven plays were passes and one of them was a touchdown to Cook. When the opportunity is there, we can throw it.”

The last two weeks, Salisbury has rolled over a South Rowan team that is ranked No. 256 in the state by MaxPreps and an East Rowan team that is ranked 265th.

Salisbury, ranked 23rd for all classifications and second in 2A, will play a top-100 team, undefeated Thomasville, at home on Friday and is looking forward to what is certain to be a stiffer challenge.

“This will be great preparation for the playoffs,” Cook said.

Cook mentioned that it’s also a game that will go a long way toward determining the championship of the 1A/2A Central Carolina Conference.

Salisbury’s players and coaches are well aware that despite the thrilling playoff success of the past two seasons, neither of those seasons included a conference title.

“Part of that is we’re a high-rep team that gets better as a season goes along,” Hinson said. “We’ve won an Eastern Regional championship, a Western Regional championship and a state championship, and I’ll take a state championship all day long over a conference championship. Still, our guys, especially our seniors, know what the Thomasville game means as far as the conference.”