ROCK HILL — It's neither fair nor accurate to say Devin Pearson is South Pointe's quarterback by default.
Pearson was cruising along and quietly having a big season for the Stallions last year at defensive back before being called into duty under center against Fairfield Central.
Tay Hicklin, a junior with loads of talent was entrenched at quarterback, but at times, the Stallions' offense bogged down and the team had to depend on its defense.
But in that regular-season region game in Winnsboro, Hicklin was mauled after being tackled out of bounds in front of his bench. Flags flew and surely, most Stallions fans thought, they were for a late hit.
Hicklin retaliated to the shenanigans by the Griffins players and was kicked out of the game. Hicklin later admitted he shouldn't have done it, but also said he felt the Griffins players were trying to hurt him.
Enter Pearson, a 6-foot, 170-pound junior, who had played quarterback as a freshman but felt his best position was in the defensive secondary. He wobbled most of the second quarter, but caught fire after the break and led the Stallions to a victory that gave them the region title.
"Sure I was nervous," Pearson said Tuesday before practice. "I was all set to play defense but was also the backup quarterback. I didn't think I'd end up playing there.
"I've been there ever since and Tay has been good about it. He helps me; talks to me and pumps me up. But I'm lucky. I have good receivers, good running backs and a good line that lost everybody except our center, Dakota Mozingo, and our left guard, Brian Bechtler."
On a team that has five players who run 4.5 40s, Pearson fits right in. He runs a 4.59, and is hard to catch once he sees daylight.
Two weeks ago he broke loose on the Stallions' second play from scrimmage and went 70 yards for a touchdown. Logan Ard nailed the kick and erased a 6-0 Fairfield Central lead on the way to a playoff blowout.
But Pearson saved his best for last week's Upper State championship game against York, a 38-15 Stallions' win. He ran for 166 yards on 15 carries and scored three times, the longest touchdown a 19-yard run, same as his jersey number.
Pearson can also pass and most often does when an opponent packs the box to stop the run. Against York, he completed 12 of 16 passes for 177 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown toss to Montay Crockett.
"Coach (Strait) Herron's been nervous all week," Pearson said after the game with a laugh. "He's been yelling a lot more, on us a lot more. He pushed us."
If there is one flaw to Pearson's game, it's that he's not vocal. Pearson is quiet and yelling just isn't his style. He will say something to a player that blows an assignment, but he leaves the yelling and leading to the team's seniors.
"I'll have to work on that because I'll be a senior next year," Pearson said with a sly smile on his face. "The seniors mean a lot to our team. They are so good that when other teams key on them, it opens up things for me to contribute.
"Me being in the backfield is like us having another running back. We switched offenses this year and it was hard at first. But it didn't take us long to learn it and start clicking."
Pearson has run for 1,026 yards and 13 scores this season. He's passed for 1,553 yards and 20 touchdowns, including eight to Crockett and seven to JaRyan Jennings.
Manzey Miller and Brandon Barber are "very good" running backs, he said. Pearson added that each of his receivers can go get it when he puts the ball in the air.
"Devin is a great kid," Herron said. "My wife, Bridget, knows Tay and thinks the world of him, but she didn't know Devin too well until a couple of weeks ago.
"We had players at different stores doing a food drive. Bridget was assigned to chaperone where Devin was working. She came home and told me that she was very impressed with him; that he opened doors for people and made them smile by talking to them. I told her I already knew he was that way."
When the Stallions line up against Bluffton in the Class AAA state championship game at Clemson on Saturday night at 6:30 p.m., Pearson hopes to lead his team to victory. He quarterbacked South Pointe in last year's title game. but it ended up with a loss to Myrtle Beach.
"He's a good quarterback and we have confidence in him," said Crockett, who runs a 4.48. "He has this way of connecting with us on and off the field; has good communication.
"If any of us think we can beat our coverage or man after a play is called, we can send a signal to Devin so he can change the play. We really like him. When he takes off running, I try to catch up and follow so I can block for him. We like to protect our own."
NOTE: South Pointe is making a bus available for students to travel to Clemson on Saturday for the state championship football game. There is no cost to ride the bus; however, students must purchase a $10 game ticket at the school by Thursday.
The permission form must be returned to Mr. Rogers, in the guidance office, by Friday. It must be signed by both the student and parent or guardian.
Forms will be available in the gallery at lunches or see Mr. Rogers in Guidance.