The offense typically gets most of the media attention for Parkland’s football team.
Yet, it’s the Mustangs defense that could make the biggest impact in their quest to advance to the NCHSAA Class 3-A state playoffs and make an extended run.
Denoris Wardlow is a key defensive piece as the starting free safety, who gets playing time at wide receiver and as a punt returner. During his career, Wardlow has proven himself as a genuine threat on both sides of the football.
“Defense is his strong suit,” said first-year Coach Laymarr Marshall of Parkland. “But as we got deeper into (Piedmont Triad 3-A) conference play, we called on him to play more offense. When Denoris has the ball in his hands, he’s a playmaker and that gives us an advantage.”
Wardlow, a 5-foot-11, 170-pound senior, has family roots in football. His older brother, Antonio, was a defensive back at Parkland who played collegiately at Tennessee. O.C. Wardlow, his cousin, is a former star quarterback at Mount Tabor who signed with Virginia and had offers from Tennessee, North Carolina and Maryland.
The Wardlow brothers are now united at Parkland with Antonio serving as the Mustangs secondary coach. Denoris deeply appreciates having Antonio around on a daily basis.
“It’s great to have Antonio as my position coach,” Wardlow said. “The college techniques that he’s taught me have really helped. I’ve gotten so much better at playing man-to-man, and I’ve learned a lot about how to read quarterbacks.”
There’s no doubt that Wardlow’s football career will go beyond high school. So far, he’s being recruited by N.C. Central, Catawba, Winston-Salem State, Averett and UNC Pembroke.
With the regular season winding down, Wardlow is confident that Parkland (5-3 record before last Friday’s game at home against Mount Tabor) can make the cut for the postseason. For that to happen, he realizes that defense must do its part.
“This season, for some reason, we’ve had this habit of starting off slow,” he said. “To be at our best defensively, it’s important for us to play with high intensity from the very start of the game. When we play that way, we make it very tough for teams to move the ball and score points on us.”
Three questions for Wardlow
Q: What’s the best book you’ve read?
Answer: “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Q: Who’s had the most influence in your life?
Answer: Anthony Wardlow (father)
Q: What’s your favorite food?
Answer: Crab legs
—Craig T. Greenlee