High school football: Warren’s breakout has elevated Salisbury defense

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 14, 2023

By Mike London

SALISBURY —Senior defensive end Jaden Warren has been disruptive — in a good way — for the Salisbury Hornets.

The only game in which he wasn’t credited with a sack was the one at Walkertown. Walkertown didn’t offer much of a passing threat, so Warren had to settle for a fumble recovery for a touchdown in that one.

Against North Davidson, East Rowan and Person, Warren has accounted for multiple sacks, and he’s also produced a high percentage of Salisbury’s quarterback hurries. He was credited with six hurries in the East game alone.

Watch a minute of a Salisbury highlight film, and it’s likely you’re going to see Warren doing something pretty scary.

Salisbury’s defense was expected to be good. Warren’s leap forward has been one of the reasons that the defense for the unbeaten Hornets been better than good.

It’s been great.

Warren has grown to 6-foot-3, 220 pounds and looks like a prototype high school defensive end. He is tall and lean, but there’s power in his arms and legs.

“He changed his body by adding good weight and muscle in the off-season,” Salisbury head coach Clayton Trivett said. “He’s gained at least 30 pounds of muscle since last season. We knew he would be good for us this year, but he’s been better than anyone could have expected. Great young man, great smile, just keeps working.”

Warren has had an interesting journey to get here.

In November 2021, he was a sophomore safety playing for West Rowan in the Falcons’ epic overtime playoff win at North Lincoln. That was an incredible game, and Warren played a big part in it. He made a ton of tackles in space against the run and even came up with a big turnover.

Warren has relatives who made their mark with the Falcons, including his cousin, Maurice Warren, who was quite a defensive end for West about a dozen years ago.

But Warren made a decision to transfer to Salisbury prior to last season. He said he arrived just a few days before the 2022-23 school year started.

“Salisbury had Mike Geter and Deuce Walker, and I knew coaches would be watching them and scouting them,” Warren said. “I thought it would be easier to be recruited at Salisbury.”

There were no parades when Warren arrived. His late arrival at Salisbury put him behind some, and the Hornets had lots of experience and talent on defense. For several weeks, Warren provided depth at receiver and defensive back.

“Then we had an injury and needed a backup defensive end,” Salisbury defensive coordinator Wesley Jackson explained. “I told Jaden that this was a great chance for him to get on the field, and he was eager to try it. Then his first game at defensive end, he gets a sack.”

Warren was hooked. He liked smashing quarterbacks.

“I remember it was the South Rowan game,” Warren said. “First time I’d ever played defensive end, but I got a sack and I loved it.”

He wore a No. 13 jersey during the 2022 season and had 185 pounds stretched over his long frame, but he was usually too quick for opposing linemen to block. He got better and more active each week at his new position.

Coming into this season, the Hornets were counting on Warren as a starter, counting on him to man the defensive end spot opposite Dashawn “Fatz” Brown, a returning all-conference player.

With the size he added in the off-season, Warren has manned it and then some. He’s been something else. In Friday’s 31-6 win at Person, Warren had two tackles for loss, two sacks and two hurries. He had a forced fumble and fumble recovery on the same play.

He wears No. 7 now. That’s an unusual jersey number for a defensive end, but he wanted a single digit like Walker and Geter.

“It’s been a really good start to my senior season,” Warren said. “All those hours this summer I spent in the weight room putting on more size, I can see it paying off now. It’s a great feeling.”

Overwhelmed opponents are finding the Hornets are equally tough at both defensive ends.

It’s impossible to run away from both Brown and from Warren, and it’s tough to move 330-pound Saderion Robinson in the middle.

Warren is powerful enough on bull-rushes to drive a blocker right into the quarterback, and he has shown he is fast enough to chase down quarterbacks who are trying to escape a collapsing pocket. He’s even sprinted from the backside to destroy option plays headed to the corner away from him.

“Not only is he quick and strong, Jaden is playing very hard,” said defensive line coach Matthew Hogrefe, who was on the Central Davidson staff with Trivett before coming to Salisbury. “This is his first full season at defensive end, so he’s still learning, but he’s doing a great job.”

Person was a good test for the Hornets. Salisbury was on the road a long way from home against a physical team with no shortage of athletes and a stout running game.

The Hornets passed the test. Warren definitely passed the test.

“I didn’t think I had a very good first half,” Warren said. “Most of my highlights were in the second half. But I was locked in during the second half.”

So far for the Hornets, it’s been 42-0, 62-6, 65-7 and 31-6.

Thomasville (3-1) comes to Ludwig Stadium on Friday to start Central Carolina Conference play. Salisbury vs. Thomasville right out of the gate is similar to NASCAR starting the season with the Daytona 500.

The Bulldogs are always tough and they are reportedly even better than usual up front this year.

It will be another strong test for the Hornets. They’ll be prepared for it.