High school football: Even with new coach, Hornets in good position
Published 12:01 am Sunday, August 14, 2022
Fifth in a series of reports on local high schools …
By Mike London
SALISBURY — The Salisbury Hornets crashed and burned at Maiden in the third round of the 2A football state playoffs, but some of the ringleaders of that SHS team were young and are still around to lead another run.
Because of those exciting young athletes, prognosticators rank Salisbury in the top five in 2A, even after a coaching change (Clayton Trivett replaced Brian Hinson as head coach in May) combined with heavy graduation losses, including Georgia recruit and Rowan County Defensive Player of the Year Jalon Walker.
Senior running back JyMikaah Wells (3,442 career rushing yards and 49 touchdowns) already is one of the all-time guys for the Hornets and figures to shatter school records for career rushing yards and TDs.
Junior quarterback Mike Geter is well on his way to becoming one of the all-time guys. The Rowan County Offensive Player of the Year accounted for 45 touchdowns (28 rushing, 17 passing) in his first season at quarterback.
“Can’t say enough about Wells and Geter,” Trivett said. “They’re talented kids who work their tails off. I knew they were good players, but they’re great kids. Their work ethic has impressed me as much as their talent.”
Junior receiver/DB Deuce Walker (six TD catches) has been good, but this is going to be the season he shows he’s one of the county’s elite players. He’s not Jalon’s little brother anymore. He’s a beast in his own right.
“Deuce is going to be asked to do the things Marcus Cook did last season,” Trivett said.
That means a lot more passes are going to be headed Walker’s way. He’s ready.
When you’ve got a trio like Wells, Geter and Walker, you’ve got a chance to emulate the three outstanding teams that preceded this one — the 2019 state runners-up, the spring 2021 state champs, and last fall’s steamroller. Those three teams went 33-6.
How good was Salisbury last fall?
By all statistical measures, those Hornets were the most dominant football team in county history. That’s not to say they were the best team in county history, but they overmatched the competition they were facing more than anyone ever has. They annihilated average teams. They embarrassed weak ones.
Salisbury scored more points in one night (69) than it allowed for the entire season (65). The Hornets scored more than 60 five times on their way to averaging a county-record 53 points per game. Salisbury put up the scary numbers it did offensively despite a blowout-heavy, running-clock environment. Geter was usually done throwing by halftime.
Defensively, Salisbury arguably was even more overwhelming than it was on offense. The Hornets shut out eight opponents.
The challenge now is to maintain that level, to stay among the elite in 2A. Besides Jalon Walker and Cook, the Hornets subtracted unblockable defensive lineman Nick Hall, powerful linebacker Jaden Gaither, big-play DB Jayden Gibson, offensive line masher Chris Green and D-I kicker Wade Robins. And that’s just to name a few.
“A big senior class graduated,” Trivett said. “We”ll only have eight seniors.”
There are a lot of holes, quite a few new faces.
Normally, when you change head coaches, you have staff overhauls, but Salisbury returns just about everyone except Hinson and Carson Herndon, who is taking a year off from coaching.
‘We were able to keep the staff together, and a big part of that was because we’ll continue to run the same systems they did last season,” Trivett said. “That will make the transition a lot easier for the players.”
Trivett coached extreme run-heavy teams at Central Davidson before he was hired at Salisbury, but the former Catawba offensive lineman isn’t going to try to fix something that’s not broken. When you’ve got someone as explosive as Geter, you let him make plays. Salisbury should have about the same run/pass mix that it thrived on last season.
The Hornets have about 75 players in the program.
The first name that comes up when you’re discussing Salisbury’s rebuilt defense is linebacker Amare Johnson.
He’s been a good player for a while, but he’s taken a jump during a summer filled with intensive training sessions. His before and after pictures don’t look like the same human being.
“He’s lost the baby fat, he’s in great shape, and he’s going to be a leader,” Trivett said.
D,J. Adams, who scored a touchdown in the Rowan C0unty Jamboree on a fumble recovery, is another experienced linebacker.
Salisbury expects to be very solid on the defensive line. Anthony Dodd, Dashawn Brown, Nick Tillman, Makaii Blackwell and Damian Brandon will get most of the snaps.
Salisbury will ask Geter and Walker to also play in the defensive secondary. That doubles the chances of them getting hurt, but it also gives them a chance to shut down receivers and make picks.
Also counted on for good things in the secondary are Jamal Rule, the track sprinter, and Sean Young.
Geter should be hard to stop when he’s on offense. He’s quick and mobile and his left arm is a howitzer that can propel the ball deep.
He’ll be throwing to Nature Smith and Evan Koontz, as well as Walker. Defensive linemen Brown and Brandon will be in H-back roles on offense. They’ll primarily be lead blockers, but they could also be targeted for passes.
Wells is a big, strong athlete, who combines his bullish power with stunning speed when he finds daylight. He scored 21 TDs last season.
Rule will be the changeup back. The plan is for him to get enough carries to keep Wells fresh.
Bryan Rosado returns to lead the offensive linemen. That’s usually the last group to be solidified by the Hornets, but Trivett is confident the Hornets can piece another good unit together. Anthony Young, Antonio Young, Tyree Brown and Jeremiah Blackson have impressed the coaches. Garrison Jones is the position coach. Trivett will spend a lot of practice time with that group.
Hank Webb will handle the kicking duties, and he can punt — if the Hornets ever need to.
Nate Shaffer is the long snapper. Koontz probably will be the holder.
The depth isn’t ideal, with a lot of Hornets playing both ways, but if they stay healthy, the Hornets can justify their lofty preseason ranking.
“Coach Hinson built a great program and instilled a culture built on work ethic,” Trivett said. “The hard work was done long before I got here. These are great kids. My job is to get them in the right places and continue the success.”
Coach: Clayton Trivett (1st year)
2021 record: 11-1 (6-0 1A/2A Central Carolina Conference, 1st)
Playoffs: Won big twice before losing to Maiden 32-20 in third round