Former Piedmont quarterback ushering in new era at Metrolina Christian Academy
by Aaron Garcia
There were several moments on Aug. 26 when Metrolina Christian Academy coach Thomas Langley knew his new quarterback, Ross Rushing, was a good fit for the Warriors. But one instance stood out above the rest.
The 65-yard scoring scamper he had certainly was nice, especially as it put Metrolina up 27-20, setting the stage for the Warriors’ first-ever varsity football win.
But it was a seemingly innocuous sprint-draw run play – intended for his running back – that really let Langley know what his signal caller was made of. As the play started, a Lasker Northeast Prep defender keyed on the play and barreled down on the running back, setting up a huge loss for the Warriors.
“(Rushing) pulled it back and ran 40 yards on third and long,” Langley recalled.
“Nobody told him to do that. He just has the ‘it’ factor. He’s a gamer.”
The sight of Rushing making a huge play was nothing new for Union County high school football fans, but watching him do it in a maroon Warriors’ uniform certainly was.
Since the seventh grade, Rushing was a fixture within the Piedmont athletic structure. In middle school, he began playing football, basketball and baseball for the Panthers and continued throughout last season, moving from the middle school ranks to the high school varsity teams.
But it was in football that Rushing made his biggest impact.
An athletically built 6-foot quarterback, Rushing was the conductor of the Panthers’ run-based offense, spinning and pirouetting his was around the pocket, distributing the ball to the Panthers’ stable of running backs. He was also an able rusher himself, breaking long runs whenever the opposing defense focused too hard on the backs.
Last year, Rushing even helped lead Piedmont to an 11-2 record and a second-round playoff appearance before losing a heart-breaker to conference rival Charlotte Berry.
But with many of his fellow starters graduating last spring, Rushing started to feel that it was time for a “fresh start”, as he put it, once the season ended. At the same time, Langley, a former student of his father’s, was hired to launch the fledgling football program at Metrolina. Though the Warriors were only a JV team last year, Rushing and his father kept up with their progress.
“We looked at them every week,” Rushing said. “We’d ask (ourselves), ‘I wonder how Metrolina did.’”
In the spring, Rushing decided to visit Metrolina and shadowed running back Alex Lewis for a school day. He also watched the football team during some spring practices, which is when he really started to give the decision to leave Piedmont some weight.
“That’s what really sold me,” he explained. “When we were at the practices, (the players) were going hard. They always go hard.”
But attending Piedmont was all Rushing had ever known, so the decision was anything but an easy one.
“My dad just said pray about it and see what God tells you to do and leads you to do,” Rushing recalled.
So what did God tell him?
“I kept getting tugged,” Rushing said. “God was like, ‘You know you want to go here but you don’t want to make the other people mad. You’ve got to pull away from that; you’ve just got to grow up and do it.’”
So after informing the Piedmont coaches that he intended to transfer, he addressed his Panther teammates. He told them he loved them and he wished they could come with him and that his decision wasn’t an indictment on them.
“It was just a personal decision,” Rushing explained. “Sometimes, some things outweigh other things and decisions have to be made.”
At that point, the decision was official, which was a somewhat scary proposition for the soon-to-be senior.
“There’s always that thought, but once you commit to something, worrying is like a rocking chair; it gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere,” Rushing said.
“I can worry about why this decision may be wrong or I can do everything to the best of my ability and make everything right and prove (my doubters) wrong.”
So far, Rushing’s made the decision look pretty wise; he’s completed 22 of 41 passes for 256 yards and two scores and has balanced out his three interceptions with three rushing scores. He’s also added 263 yards on 26 carries.
But more than the offensive production, Rushing said he’s enjoyed the ability to build a program while also expanding his role from simply a quarterback to an on-the-field extension of Langley and the other coaches.
“I think that’s one of the reasons he came over here, to get a chance to help build a program,” Langley said. “He’s brought good leadership. His on-the-field leadership is without question.
“Just with his style of play, his aggressiveness during practice and games, the other kids really rally off of that.”
But Rushing isn’t the only player to make big contributions for the Warriors this season. After a successful JV campaign last fall, Metrolina already had a strong foundation when Rushing and fellow former Panther Cannon Long, a linebacker, joined the team this fall. Returning running back Alex Lewis has amassed 114 yards in two games while Calvin Davis, also a basketball player, has made five catches for 120 yards and a score. Receivers Johnny Sprinkle, Matt Botzenhart, Josh Johnson and Jeremy Herba have all hauled in passes from Rushing as well.
But the presence of a seasoned signal-caller on any team, much less a first-year program, can’t be overstated.
“We’d be able to take the steps toward being a good varsity program (without Rushing),” Langley said. “But he, without a doubt, helps.”
This week, Rushing has a chance to truly display his wares in front of his new community at Metrolina as the Warriors are slated to play their first home game in program history. The game is scheduled to kick off Friday, Aug. 9 at 5 p.m. against Gastonia Highland Tech.
Though Rushing already has his name on several “firsts” within the program’s history, he’s looking forward to etching his name on even more, starting this Friday.
“You’re literally making the records as you go for the varsity program,” Rushing said of his current situation.
And that’s an exciting opportunity for Rushing, regardless of what uniform he’s wearing.