South Pointe was explosive, but that was known already.
The Stallions played great defense, but that was known, too.
What wasn't apparent until about midway through their 38-15 win Friday night against York to advance to the state title game was how much they've grown, and the impact they've made on coach Strait Herron. The Stallions (13-1) will play Lower State champ Bluffton on Dec. 3 at 6:30 p.m. in Clemson for the Class AAA title.
South Pointe is headed back to the championship game for the second straight year, and is making its third trip in four seasons.
After the game, Herron barked instructions. He preached to his players how they could play with anyone in the state. He told them how busy the next week was going to be.
Then, dripping and shivering thanks to his celebratory ice-water bath, Herron called them back up, hushed the noise, to tell them the most important thing of all.
"I almost forgot to tell you something," Herron howled. "I love you."
It was different from other postgame speeches from the fiery first-year coach, who has stomped and hollered and scolded, particularly after their lone loss of the season against Spartanburg.
But Friday night, there was nothing but love, and for good reason.
The Stallions overcame a slow start to manhandle their region rivals for the second time. Junior quarterback Devin Pearson accounted for 343 yards of offense (166 rushing, 177 passing) and four touchdowns to lead the rout, but he laughed at the way they were able to finally contain their energetic coach.
"Coach Herron's been nervous all week," Pearson said with a laugh. "He's been yelling a lot more, on us a lot more. He pushed us."
So that's why they had to cool him off.
While Herron was making postgame plans, trying to direct traffic, senior JaRyan Jennings grabbed hold of him and wouldn't let go. It was Jennings' best play of the night, which is saying something, since he made a game-changing interception early in the second half.
That's when they soaked Herron down and began the celebration in earnest, with players bouncing off the field chanting "We're going to the ship". .
Not only was Pearson making plays left and right, the Stallions stifled York defensively. The Cougars managed just 100 yards on the ground, with leading rusher Lee Wright held to 21 yards.
It wasn't a surprise for the resurgent Cougars, who lost half their games this season on this field.
"We ended 10-4 after going 2-8 and we just lost to a good football team," York coach, and former Stallions boss Bobby Carroll said. "South Pointe is an electrifying team with number 19 at quarterback. They're a stronger football team than us, and they've been here before."
The two defenses took turns slugging each other early, with little ground gained on either side.
The Stallions jumped out when Pearson hit Montay Crockett for a 33-yard touchdown pass with 2 minutes, 33 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Stallions then forced a punt, but were backed up in their own end, and gave up a play with some special teams problems. Punter Logan Ard was chased out of the back of the end zone for a safety, cutting the lead to 7-2.
The Cougars responded with their best sustained drive of the half, with Spencer Carroll capping it with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Reggie McClain.
At that point, Pearson started getting it done with his legs. He kept a fake and ran it 63 yards, and followed with a 10-yard touchdown run on the next snap to give the Stallions the lead back. On their next possession, he had runs of 15 and 21 yards before taking it in from a yard away to push the margin to 21-9 with 1:54 left in the half.
In the second half, even South Pointe's missteps worked out.
After an early fumble, the Stallions took it right back from York. Jennings intercepted Carroll, but teammate Cory Neely grabbed the ball before Jennings went down and ran 51 yards untouched for the score. Pearson followed with his third touchdown run, making it 35-9 with 4:30 left in the third.
South Pointe 38, York 15
SP -- Devin Pearson 33 pass to Montay Crockett (Logan Ard kick).
Y -- Safety, chased punter out of the back of the end zone.
Y -- Spencer Carroll 10 pass to Reggie McClain (Matt Bostic kick).
SP -- Devin Pearson 10 run (Logan Ard kick).
SP -- Devin Pearson 1 run (Logan Ard kick).
SP -- Cory Neely 51 yard fumble return (Logan Ard kick).
SP -- Devin Pearson 19 run (Logan Ard kick).
Y -- C.J. Pendergrass 5 run (pass failed).
RUSHING -- South Pointe: Brandan Barber 6-(-5), Manzey Miller 13-69, Devin Pearson 15-166, Josh Brice 2-0, Logan Yard 1-12. York: Lee Wright 16-21, Spencer Carroll 7-5, Corey Dover 4-12, C.J. Pendergrass 7-60, Mark Mobley 6-2.
PASSING -- South Pointe: Devin Pearson 12-17-0 177 yards. York: Spencer Carroll 17-28-2 x yards.
RECEIVING -- South Pointe: Montay Crockett 5-62, JaRyan Jennings 4-79, Tay Hicklin 2-22, Logan Yard 1-14. York: Matt Bostic 2-44, Tay Neely 2-4, Lamin Yanseneh 2-24, Reggie McClain 6-53, Josh McCoy 2-16, Hunter Nunn 1-8, Rodrik Simpson 2-14.
RECORDS: South Pointe: 13-1. York: 10-4.
Video: South Pointe defeats York
Video: Reaction to South Pointe win
Darin Gantt 803-326-4312