Chester football coach Anthony Sterling said he has never seen a play as exciting as the one South Pointe's Jadeveon Clowney made against his team.
Sterling's Cyclones had come to South Pointe with aspirations of upsetting the No. 1-ranked Stallions and making a run at the region title. What he didn't count on was that one player, Clowney, would dominate the game in the Stallions' 55-17 win.
"In all of my years coaching, I've never seen a better player, or one that can make the plays Clowney makes,'' Sterling said. "The play he made in the second half, the way it happened so quickly, it was just another example of why he is the No. 1 player in the nation.''
And it was another of those plays that has seemed reserved for Clowney.
Chester quarterback Tony McNeal dropped back to pass. Clowney came charging fast from defensive end looking for another sack. McNeal let the ball go. Clowney, at 6-feet-6, 255-pounds, jumped, batting the ball as he ran into Chester's backfield.
He took a couple of steps in full stride, grabbed the ball out of the air and ran 23 yards for a touchdown.
Other plays happened in nearly ever game, getting the fans in both stands buzzing and talking.
Clowney has the "wow factor,'' a trait reserved for the best of players.
Pittsburgh's Troy Polamolu has it. Green Bay's Clay Matthews has it. So does Baltimore's Ed Reed. All play defense and make the kinds of plays that make fans turn to those sitting next to them and say: "Wow! Did you see that?''
Clowney is a live highlight reel, whether on defense or offense. He had 29.5 sacks and 28 tackles for a loss this season and 162 tackles.
He also played tailback at times, running 32 times for 277 yards, a per-carry average of 8.6 yards. He scored nine touchdowns.
But defensive end is where Clowney will likely play in college. Where he will play won't be known until Monday when he is scheduled to announce his choice at a 10:15 a.m. event at South Pointe's auditorium.
Clowney said Wednesday he was distressed that folks are saying Alabama is out of the picture and that only Clemson and South Carolina are on his list. On Thursday, Clowney said he has made his decision and shared it only with his mom, Josenna Clowney.
Clowney goes 100 percent on the field and in practice. Opposing coaches say their week of preparation includes schemes to keep Clowney away from their quarterback.
His youth coach at the GRA-Y level, Perry Sutton, said Clowney and his first national recruit, Chris Hope, were the best players he has coached. Sutton pointed out that eight South Pointe defensive starters this season, and three on defense at 15-0 state champion Northwestern, played for his Demons teams.
"Jadeveon was a headhunter the first time he walked onto the field for us,'' Sutton said. "I could tell he was special, that he would be in the (NFL) some day, even at that age.
"He got stronger and faster every season and, man, did he love to hit. He hit so hard that he split some helmets in GRA-Y, cracked them so hard that they couldn't be used in the game. It was nothing outside the rules. He just hit harder than anyone else,'' Sutton said.
The "wow'' moment Sutton remembers was an offensive play. It came in the City Championship game when Clowney played tailback and linebacker.
Sutton said the Falcons knew Clowney was going to get the handoff, loading up the right side of the line. The Falcons coaches were correct, but didn't have the answer.
Clowney faked out a couple of defenders. He ran over a couple more. With his path cleared, Clowney sped 70 yards for a touchdown.
"I could tell it was over after that play,'' Sutton said. "The other team got down and Jadeveon was crushing them on defense. All we had to do was wait for the game clock to run out.''
Lancaster coach Bennie McMurray's Bruins have played South Pointe many times and he said Clowney always made the big plays. During the playoffs, McMurray sat in the stands, watching the Stallions' 53-8 win in the Upper State championship game.
South Pointe scored 43 points in the first quarter, and Clowney had three touchdowns - a 13-yard fumble return, a 52-yard interception and a 13-yard run from tailback.
"The interception Clowney made against Fairfield Central and when he put on the after-burner to run away from Danny Miller the quarterback, who is very fast was amazing,'' McMurray said. "The entire stadium went bananas.''
Coaches have been known to make quick decisions when faced with the prospects of what Clowney might do next.
In a game nationally televised by ESPN against Spartanburg at Wofford's Gibbs' Stadium, the Vikings and the Stallions were tied 7-7 and the game went into overtime. South Pointe got the ball first in overtime and scored for a 14-7 lead.
Spartanburg got its turn and scored. Spartanburg coach Freddie Brown elected to go for the win with a 2-point conversion. It failed and South Pointe won 14-13. Clowney didn't figure in the play physically but did mentally.
"After coaching on every level of football, I thought a great scheme is player-proof if executed properly,'' Brown said. "The young man changed my gameplan midstream because in a game you have some things you think you can execute against him and you quickly realize he is better than advertised and those things cannot be done.
"We went for a 2-point conversion in overtime when we had a chance to win because (Clowney) would have won the game for them if I had given him the chance. When he's 'on' he can completely control a game.''
Fort Mill coach Ed Susi also had a plan, but like many others, it was out the window quickly in a loss to South Pointe.
"We are an option team, so instead of blocking him we decided to read him,'' Susi said. "After he tackled both the dive (back) and our quarterback together, we decided to run the other way.''
Phil Magdic's Greenville Red Raiders got a big dose of Clowney in their Upper State playoff game. Greenville entered the game with an 11-1 record, same as South Pointe, and was one of the best teams in Class AAA this season.
Clowney and the Stallions put their game in high gear, taking a 50-7 victory.
"He pass rushed on my 300-plus pounds tackle,'' Magdic said. "He came off the ball so quick my tackle couldn't get his hands up fast enough. Clowney was able to deliver a blow to my man's chest and knock him over without breaking stride.
"Oh, and the running back assigned to chip on Clowney just looked the other way as he sacked our quarterback.''
Northwestern's Jimmy Wallace, whose Trojans beat the Stallions this season 42-20 on ESPNU, has coached some of the state's best players. He has sent scores of them to college and some made it to the NFL: Jeff Burris (Notre Dame), Derek Ross (Ohio State), Ben Watson (Georgia) and Johnathan Joseph (South Carolina).
This year's quarterback, Justin Worley, was one of the top offensive players in the nation. He was the Gatorade Player of the Year, Rivals' Offensive Player of the Year - Clowney was its defensive player - and like Clowney, was named to this year's Parade All-America Team.
Wallace, calls Clowney one of the best players he's seen.
"Wow, a truly incredible player,'' Wallace said. "He played defensive end, defensive tackle, linebacker, running back and wide receiver. He is huge, fast and strong, with great speed and quickness.
"He's too quick for one offensive lineman to block; too big and strong for a back to block. He's 6-6 and power cleans 320-plus. In high school he's awesome. Clowney deserves all the attention he's getting because he is a great player. I'm glad he is graduating in June and I'm wishing him the best of everything.''
Barry Byers - 329-4099