Defending Virginia Class 6 champion South County High School found itself trailing 22-21 with 3:40 left in the COVID-19 delayed 2020 state football semifinals last April against Madison. The Stallions needed to cover 90 yards during that span to make a return trip to the state finals.
South County coach Tynan Rolander knew for the Stallions to have a chance to win, they had to get the ball in the hands of junior wide receiver Brock Spalding.
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Spalding put his playmaking skills on display during what would be the game-winning drive. First, he took a handoff on what looked first like a jet sweep, but pulled up and completed a 30-yard pass. Then, with 1:21 remaining and surrounded by pair of Madison defenders, Spalding hauled in a 16-yard touchdown pass. For good measure, he also caught the ensuing two-point conversion pass to cap a 29-22 comeback win.
“That (drive) says a lot about who Brock is and how he plays the game,” Rolander said this week. “Brock is really kind of a one-of-a-kind kid. It’s very rare that you have a guy with that skill set come through your program and be as impactful as he’s been.”
Spalding will be bringing his “one-of-a-kind” skills to East Carolina in 2022 after giving the Pirates a verbal commitment on June 21. He was one of nine prospects who announced their intention to play for ECU between June 18 and 27.
Army, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Charlotte, Coastal Carolina, Connecticut, Duke, Liberty, Marshall, Maryland, Massachusetts, Old Dominion, Toledo and Tulane were others who made scholarship offers to Spalding. But a strong connection built over the past three years with ECU outside receivers coach Drew Dudzik proved a major factor in Spalding opting for the Pirates.
Dudzik is also a product of the Northern Virginia area that includes South County.
“Drew played at Centreville High School,” Rolander said. “He knew our old head coach, Gerry Pannoni, pretty well. He’s been around our program the last three years quite a bit. That relationship Coach Dudzik was able to cultivate with Brock was a huge piece in deciding what Brock wanted to do. You combine that with what (head) Coach (Mike) Houston has done wherever he’s gone and the job he’s doing now at ECU, and it was a pretty easy decision for Brock.”
Spalding will follow in the footsteps of his older brother, Dillon, when he becomes a Football Bowl Subdivision scholarship athlete at East Carolina.
Dillon Spalding was an all-state receiver at South County in the recruiting Class of 2018 who made 196 career catches for 3,470 yards and 53 touchdowns. He was heavily recruited by the Pirates and others before deciding to sign with West Virginia. Dillon spent a redshirt season with the Mountaineers before deciding to transfer to James Madison in 2019. After one year at JMU, he departed and joined Virginia Tech as a walk-on player in 2020. Dillon Spalding isn’t currently listed on Virginia Tech’s roster for 2021.
Dillon Spalding’s influence on his younger brother has been significant.
“It’s always been me and my brother,” Brock Spalding said. “We played a lot of sports and he always taught me everything.”
Brock Spalding had been a running back and middle linebacker coming up through the recreation and middle school ranks. But when he reached ninth grade at South County he decided to shift to receiver in hopes of one day continuing the receiver tradition started by his brother. It didn’t take Brock long as he earned a starting job on the South County varsity as a freshman.
“I wasn’t expecting it, but I put in a lot of hard work,” Spalding said. “After a few weeks in training camp I became the number one wide receiver for the varsity, so that was really exciting.”
A year later Spalding would help spark the Stallions to a 15-0 record and the state Class 6 championship by making 85 receptions for 1,405 yards and 22 touchdowns. The performance earned him first-team all-state and honorable mention All-Washington, DC, Metro honors.
With Spalding making 45 catches for 882 yards and scoring 11 touchdowns in the 2020 season, which was shifted to the spring due to COVID-19, South County made another run at the state crown, reaching the championship game before falling to Oscar Smith.
Now that his college decision has been made, Spalding is turning his attention to the 2021 season and helping South County contend for another state title. Rolander said he’ll again look to Spalding to make big plays for the Stallions.
“He’s not a guy that is afraid to put himself in position to make a big play,” Rolander said. “If we need a play, we need a first down or need a score, Brock is the guy we’re going to. That’s the type of guy that we know we have and know we can count on when we need him.”