Somebody in South Pointe’s football locker room commented at how hot it had been during the Stallions’ first practice of the 2012 season Friday morning.
“Better get used to it,” another Stallions’ player yelled from the back of the room. “We’ve got work to do.”
That work included keeping up the standard the team has set since it began playing varsity football six years ago. During those six years, the Stallions won two state championships (2008, 2011) and played for another. The Stallions fell short in 2010 against a very talented and determined Myrtle Beach High team which was loaded with talent. They’ve also produced and impressive 41-17 record, that includes going 3-8 in their first season in 2006.
Second-year coach Strait Herron believes (and has been telling his players) that no South Pointe team has ever played up to its full potential, and Herron should know. The Stallions were 14-1 last season, losing in the title game after leading at the half.
Herron had been the team’s defensive coordinator before taking the reins last season. He told the parents about, “full potential,” in a letter he sent home with his players. He surely mentioned it again at Friday night’s parents meeting.
“I ask them on a regular basis, ‘how good could you be?’” Herron wrote. “I’m expecting more from our players that ever before. I want them to be great athletes, great students, great sons and great people.”
Three returning Stallions standouts said they have bought into Herron’s sermons. And perhaps none of the players has faced as much pressure as starting quarterback Devin Pearson, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound senior.
“Quarterback always feel pressure because they have the job of moving the team,” he said. “My sophomore season, I was a starting defensive back and our quarterback was thrown out of the game.
“I was told to take his place and right away, I felt pressure. It was a big game and suddenly I felt like a load had been put on my shoulders. But I’ve found out that once I take the first snap, the pressure is gone. Then I start thinking about what I can do to help our team win.”
Pearson got his chance against a very good Fairfield Central team in a gem that decided the region title. He caught fire in the second half on a couple big plays and led the Stallions to a big win.
And although the starter was a good player and graduated last spring, Pearson stayed under center because of his versatility.
“I can throw and run,” he said. “But my favorite time is when a play breaks down or my receiver are covered and I can take off running.”
The returning running back is Brandon Barber, a speedy tailback who’s on the smallish size, at 5-foot-8, 165 pounds. He will likely get the most calls because of his ability to hit a hole and find running lanes.
South Pointe will stick with its wing-T version of Georgia Tech’s offense, but Barber will get help from backs Cody Blake, Tay Blake, Janaris Chisholm and Tony Byers.
“That’s OK with me because we all have speed and the goal is to not see who gets the most carries but winning the game,” Barber said. “I don’t feel any pressure, but we do need to get better.
“We are in Class AAAA this season but it’s the same. We play all of the York County teams anyway. We just have to work harder to make the state championship.”
Last year South Pointe beat then-14-0 and then-No. 1 Bluffton, which was averaging in the neighborhood of 65 points a game. Because of a solid defensive effort, the Stallions won 24-27 after leading 28-7 following three quarters.
The defensive line will again be anchored by Zeke Rodney, a 6-foot, 255-pound junior nose guard. Rodney said despite the holes left by graduation, he believes the 2012 defense can be just as good as last year’s.
“We lost one defensive end, two of four linebackers and two of four defensive backs,” he said. “That gives us five spots to fill and we have some good guys moving into their spots. The still have some work to do, but it’s only a matter of experience until we are playing Stallions defense.”
Barry Byers 329-4099