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Salisbury outlasts Lexington


SALISBURY | This wasn’t the way Joe Pinyan and his staff drew it up, but Salisbury escaped with another brand-name victory Friday night.

The Hornets may not have earned a ton of style points in their 37-25 Central Carolina Conference win over visiting Lexington, but they remained unbeaten and perched atop the conference standings.

“In the win column they mark it as a mark,” Pinyan smiled after SHS (6-2, 3-0) gave its homecoming crowd a pulsating treat. “They don’t take a picture of it, do they?”

It they did, Salisbury wouldn’t have been photographed wearing its Sunday best. The Hornets lost a pair of second-half fumbles, surrendered more than 400 yards and had its hands full with Lexington running back Marquez Grayson — a 6-foot-2, 195-pound Buick-in-pads who bumped and bruised his way for 167 yards and two touchdowns. Both Pinyan and quarterback Brian Bauk inferred that Grayson could be a Division I target. “He was a really skilled running back,” Salisbury cornerback Jordan Oglesby said. “Our strategy was to push him back and take him down, but it wasn’t easy.”

Added Bauk: “Anytime you put good linemen on the field with a running back who runs that hard and a quarterback (Raekwon Byrd) who runs that heavy, good things aren’t going to happen.”

Of course, if you widen the lens you’ll see there was plenty to celebrate. Salisbury’s “Blob” backfield piled up 341 yards rushing, it’s third-highest total this season. And fullback/linebacker Keion Adams ran for two TD’s and a team-best 93 yards, while Bauk, Max Allen and Homecoming King Justin Ruffin each made one end zone appearance.

“I was a little worried because Lexington has great athletes on both sides of the ball,” Adams said after the Hornets won their fifth straight. “But I knew we’d find a way to pull it out. We’ve been there before. We know what it takes to win games like this.”

So does first-year Lexington boss Kwayu Graham, a former state-champion coach in Tennessee. “They’re kids smelled victory and went after it,” he said after the Yellow Jackets (3-6, 2-1 CCC) were knocked out of a three-way tie for first place. “That was the difference. We lost to a good team, a seasoned team. I’m envious of Salisbury and Coach Pinyan. Our goal is get where they are.”

The Hornets got there after Bauk rolled out to his right and navigated 25 yards for a third-quarter score that put SHS ahead 29-13. “Brian did a great job of finding the gaps and putting the ball where it needed to be,” Pinyan said.

That’s when it got nerve-wracking. Lexington charged back and scored two touchdowns in less than a minute — sandwiched around a Salisbury turnover. First came Grayson’s 35-yard TD run on a sweep to the left side. Then, after recovering a fumble, the Jackets got a 31-yard sprint to the end zone from Byrd (179 yards passing, 83 rushing), trimming the deficit to 29-25.

“They’re an athletic team, but so are we,” Ruffin said after plowing for 86 yards and scoring his 17th touchdown of the fall. “It was almost like fighting fire with fire.”

Salisbury needed some insurance in the fourth period and like a good neighbor, Bauk was there. The senior calmly took the wheel and steered the Hornets to a game-clinching touchdown with 2:32 remaining. A 14-play, 87-yard drive melted more than six-and-a-half minutes off the clock and was capped when Allen powered up the middle on a 12-yard TD burst. Bauk’s two-point conversion pass to Ruffin closed the scoring.

“They were opportunists,” said Graham. “But it wasn’t so much what they did as it was what we didn’t do. That’s the difference between a great program and a growing program.”



Notes: Lexington outgained the Hornets 430-364. ... Oglesby, Bobby Johnson and Rasean Bledsoe had fumble recoveries for Salisbury. Antonio Gaithor picked off a halfback-option pass for LHS on the final play of the first half. ... The victory was Pinyan’s 95th at Salisury. He’s 10-0 against the Jackets.