Friday, August 19, 2011

RMHS adds two alums to football staff

When Rocky Mount needed some help on its football coaching staff, in walked two former Gryphon players.

With three different assistant football coaches leaving the staff over the summer (Kent Cox took the girls golf coaching position, J.J. Jones took an hiatus from coaching, Alan Hess accepted a head coaching job back in his home state of Indiana), head coach Dickie Schock needed some help.

Things got even worse when Elbert Thomas, a current assistant, faced major surgery and would miss most of the Gryphons' preseason.

Enter Rodney Birth and Brandon Arrington. Both former Gryphons, who approached Schock about openings on his staff, excelled not only in football, but in baseball, too.

Birth, who will help with the special teams, is a 1979 RMSH grad who played his college ball at N.C. Central. He was a running back and punter for the Gryphons, and he was a star pitcher in baseball.

Arrington, a 2006 RMHS alum who recently graduated from UNC-Pembroke in exercise sports science, was a standout wide receiver and solid center fielder for the Gryphons. He'll assist with the receivers.

Both have a standout football play in my memory banks. 

For Birth, it was a blowout game at Wilson Fike in the regular season finale his senior season that stood out.

With the Gryphons winning 41-0, RM got the ball on a punt at the Fike 48 with less than a minute left in the first half. Then-head coach Walt Wiggins didn't want to rub the score in, so he called a draw play to Birth.

At the handoff (from QB Bill Merrifield), there was hole in the middle of the line a semi could have cruised through. Birth went straight up the middle of the field for a 48-yard score. He didn't veer - just a straight line dash to the end zone. RM ended up winning 67-7.

Arrington, who caught 37 passes for 840 yards and eight TDs in his career as a Gryphon, ended up in the RM record books after his memorable play. Playing in his final season in a road game at Kinston, the Vikings had punted to the Gryphons.

After the ball rolled dead at the RM 2, Kinston's players downed it and celebrated like they had scored a TD.

But they didn't celebrate long.

Assistant coach Curtis Rushing suggested to then-head coach B.W. Holt that the Gryphons go to the air. So QB Jason Tyler went to a deep drop in the end zone and hit Arrington on the left at the Gryphon 19. He turned up field and outran the Kinston secondary for a 98-yard touchdown pass - the longest in school history.

RMHS went on to win the game handily.

"Coaching at my alma mater is a great opportunity for me," said Arrington recently. "RMHS has done a lot for me and prepare me for the next level and I wanted to give some of the skills I've learned back to the guys. I didn't think I'd ever be in the position to actually come back and help with a RM team. But when I had the opportunity, I jumped at the chance."

Perhaps the coaching twosome will be part of a memorable play or two as members of the RMHS coaching staff. It also features two more former Gryphon grads in Gerald Costen ('73) and Jason Battle ('98).

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