Spring Football: East Rowan
This is the fifth of six stories on spring football in Rowan County.
Today: East Rowan
By Ronnie Gallagher
GRANITE QUARRY — New East Rowan football coach Danny Misenheimer likes the fact T.J. Jefferson is getting looks from colleges.
“Elon came by and was impressed,” he said. “The Charlotte coach was impressed.”
Jefferson has worked hard in the offseason since East’s 1-9 campaign in 2011. It has been made clear to the 6-foot-2, 320-pound behemoth that he is one of the players who must step up.
“He’s a big man,” Misenheimer smiled.
But Misenheimer has been around long enough to realize how kids get the early interest to continue.
“It’s still one of those deals where we have to play better football to get offers,” he said.
And that’s where Misenheimer comes in. The former Rowan County Athlete of the Year has replaced Chad Tedder at his alma-mater. He has urged the Mustangs to make the weight room their second home.
So far, so good.
“The kids are getting much stronger,” Misenheimer praised. “We’ve got kids over 500 (pounds) in the squat and probably 10 to 15 over 250 in power clean.”
For the record, Jefferson is closing in on 600 in squats and 300 in power clean.
“We look much better,” the coach said. “We’re starting to look like a football team.”
New coaches usually bring many changes. And Jefferson will be one of the first at East, possibly going from offense to noseguard. East will resemble Salisbury’s 3-5-3 stack.
“We want a noseguard that requires double and triple-teaming,” Misenheimer said.
Misenheimer returns several on defense, including all-county players Tyler L’Hommedieu and Madison Hedrick. Junior Dock Corpening can play on either side.
But it’s the offense that needs to improve. There was barely a rushing game in 2011. Three times, East was held to minus yardage on the ground. After five games, it had accumulated a paltry 83 net yards.
It could be different in the fall.
“The kids are starting to respond and understand the split-back veer,” Misenheimer said.
It begins with quarterback Noah Drye, who put a spark in the team after he became the sophomore starter late in the season. East tripled its season output with 226 yards against West Iredell and blistered South Rowan in its only win with 306.
Calvin Edwards, a junior speedster should benefit as much as anyone from Drye’s maneuvering.
“Noah Drye is going to be huge for us,” Misenheimer said. “The kids respond to him. And he has been an animal in the weight room.”
Misenheimer needs leadership.
“The rising seniors are really doing the job,” he said. “T.J. has changed his personality tremendously. He’s a leader by example.”
Misenheimer has added some proven winners to his staff. Jason Barnes comes in from Burns, which made the Western 3A Final last year, as the defensive coordinator. Former West Rowan quarterback, Livingstone linebacker — and another former county Athlete of the Year — Bryan Aycoth is joining as quarterbacks coach. He has changed the philosophy in the weight room completely. All you have to do is look at Aycoth to know he’s spent his share of time in there. His work ethic is rubbing off on the Mustangs.
“They like the way their bodies are changing,” Misenheimer said. “It’s a big difference. It builds confidence.”
Misenheimer has been offensive and defensive coordinator during his time as an assistant and will concentrate on offense, along with Sean Rinehart. A former lineman, Misenheimer will remain with the O-line until he can hire someone.
“Right now, they’re still my babies,” he said. “You can’t win without a productive offensive line.”
Young and old alike seem to be responding to the new regime.
“The community is behind us 100 percent,” Misenheimer reports. “The administration has been great.”
East has 7-on-7s planned twice with North Rowan and North Stanly and once with Mooresville. The Mustangs are going to Asheville Erwin for a 20-team jamboree. They’ll also attend some one-day camps.
“Our kids really have the desire to do good things,” Misenheimer said. “They really want to have a good year.”