Bearcats look to get the ball in hands of tall, talented receivers

bbyers@heraldonlne.comAugust 1, 2012 

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Although Rock Hill football coach Joe Montgomery didn’t come right out and say it, he’ll likely stick with the two-quarterback system the Bearcats have used since the turn of the century.

It’s a proven system, one that produced Class AAAA Division I state championships in 2002 and 2004 under former coach Jim Ringer. It was what Montgomery said before spring practice that was, the first indication he might stick with what has worked.

“We have a bunch of good receivers, but we have to find someone who can get them the ball,” he said. “Both quarterbacks from last year graduated, so quarterback will be a key position for us this season.”

Two Bearcats are in the running for the job, but either could be the starter. The battle is being waged between Jamil Simpson and Josh Erby. They are similar in that both have the ability to get the ball down the field through the air, and both have the ability to direct the offense and run if a play breaks down or the field opens and allows a big gain.

“We run a zone-read spread offense,” Montgomery said. “Both of our quarterbacks threw well in the 7-on-7 passing leagues, but we’ll find out a lot more about them when we put on the pads.

“Choosing a starter will be easy. We’ll go with the quarterback who makes plays and gets the ball in the end zone. We feel we have two who can do that, but whichever does it best will be on the field.”

Montgomery’s concerns are justified. He has a pair of 6-foot-5 wide receivers who are both being mentioned in lists of the top 100 players in the state: Jaleel Scott and Jamel Jones.

The duo has good speed and good hands and are both standouts on the school’s basketball team. And it’s a coin toss as to which sport either is better at.

Basketball has helped them become better football players. They are Rock Hill’s deep threats because they can cover the field quickly and win most jump balls to make the catch.

When the Bearcats are in the red zone, it’s a good bet that one or both will run a fade to the end zone and go high into the air to make the catch.

“It looks like we’ll be mostly a passing team this season,” Scott said. “It’s great for our quarterbacks to have two tall options. I’ve been impressed with both, and I feel the same about our other receivers. It will be more than just me and Jamal out there making catches.”

The others are a crew of speedsters who can catch the curls or slants and make things happen with the slightest opening. The list includes LaBrandon Kennedy, Tre Thompson (the slot receiver), Maleek Crawford and Jaquan Feester. Scott, Jones ands Thompson started last season.

“It is great to see one of our big guys go up higher than the defender and make a catch,” said Kennedy, who is 5-foot-8. “Most of the time, our guys are going to win those battles.

“We are on probation, so it’s been football 365 days for most of us and we know we can’t get into any trouble. We want to make up for last year and get back to where we should be.”

The Bearcats and the South Pointe Stallions are on probation for a shoving altercation after their game last year. The schools’ probation is set to expire Sept. 26 if they keep their noses clean. South Pointe recovered and won the Class AAA state championship. Rock Hill made the Class AAAA Division I playoffs but finished with a 5-7 record.

Simpson doesn’t see the race for the starting quarterback job as a competition. He will get his chances and will be on the field as long as he is producing. If not, Erby will handle the snaps. It’s not unusual for the Bearcats to switch back-and-forth during a game or start a different quarterback on consecutive weeks.

“We are smaller all around this year, but we have a lot of team speed and it’s nice to have two tall receivers on the field at the same time,” he said. “What I like about this offense is that if a play breaks down or something goes wrong, the quarterback has the green light to take off running.

“We feel good about our team and the upcoming season.”

Barry Byers 329-4099

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