High school football: Feisty Setzer leading Salisbury o-line
By Mike London
SALISBURY — At 5-foot-8, 179 pounds, Salisbury right guard Will Setzer looks like a candidate for hall monitor, not offensive line.
But the senior has not only survived, he’s thrived.
“When you’re my size on the o-line, it’s about heart and it’s about fight,” Setzer said. “Dudes across from me are bigger than me, a lot bigger than me, but as long as I fire off the ball, I’ve got a chance.”
Salisbury head coach Brian Hinson says firing off the ball is what Setzer does best. Hinson adds that Setzer plays at “a good pad level,” which means he understands leverage and gets lower than the guys he’s blocking. That explains how Setzer is still in one piece at this stage of the season.
Setzer was actually bigger when he started for the Hornets in 2017.
“I ran and worked out so much over the summer that I lost quite a bit of weight,” Setzer explained. “When I got on the scales at the start of the season I thought, I still weighed at least 200, but there it was — 179.”
With a hurricane-disrupted schedule, Salisbury had to play twice in the Central Carolina Conference last week, a bruising, 18-10, home loss on Monday against Ledford, a top-15 team in 2A, followed by a tougher-than-expected, 35-23, road win against fired-up East Davidson. Setzer tirelessly responded with two of his better outings.
“Ledford had some huge guys, but I thought the hardest part of last week was getting motivated to practice hard after that a really tough loss,” Setzer said. “Coach said we had to look at it like our girlfriend had broken up with us. It didn’t feel good, but we had to get over it and move on.”
The standard scouting report on Salisbury (5-3, 5-1 CCC) is “athletes all over the place,” and Salisbury is still fast. But the Hornets are younger than usual, especially on defense, and smaller than usual.
“It seems like every Friday we’re seriously out-sized either on the offensive line or the defensive line,” Hinson said. “But our kids have hung in there, they’ve fought, and we’ve gotten better every week.”
The Hornets are seeking to make up for shortcomings in experience and pounds with improved savvy and technique, and Hinson and assistant coaches such as o-line coach Taylor Fender, who played for Hinson at Catawba, have put in long hours to make that happen.
The offensive line is a position group where technique and timing and effort are more critical than raw talent. Those guys are coming along.
“That’s where we’ve made our biggest strides since the start of the season,” Hinson said. “Coach Fender has done a great job with a very inexperienced group. We’ve got two seniors starting on the o-line now, but Setzer is the only senior who is a two-year starter.”
Because of his experience level, Setzer has taken on more of leadership role this season. He’s proud that the Hornets are starting to get some rushing touchdowns.
“Guys have put in the work, and they’ve been serious about getting better,” Setzer said. “I try to be my best every day because I never want to set a bad example for anyone.”
In Friday’s East Davidson game, the Hornets trailed the Golden Eagles early and couldn’t pull away to a comfortable position even after they grabbed the lead. With sophomore standout Mike McLean having some struggles at quarterback, Hinson moved him to running back for the stretch run and he responded with the two long scoring runs that clinched victory.
“Mike has been playing quarterback so a lot of people don’t realize how fast and elusive he is,” Setzer said. “He can make guys miss. He scored big touchdowns for us.”
Setzer and his line mates opened the holes for McLean.
“We didn’t play great on offense at East Davidson, by any means, but we were still able to score 35 points,” Hinson said. “That shows we’re making some progress.”