ROCK HILL — In a first quarter littered with three-and-outs, it was fitting that a punt return broke open Friday nights rivalry contest between South Pointe and Rock Hill. Anthony Johnson, a 6-foot-3 senior wideout, caught a bouncing kick near the Stallions 30, hopped in place for a moment, then exploded through a crease, long-legging it to the end zone to give the Stallions a lead they never relinquished in a 32-0 win over the Bearcats at District Three South Stadium.
That punt return really got us lifted up, said Alex Simms, a South Pointe offensive lineman who was named to the South Carolina Shrine Bowl squad on Wednesday.
The win kept South Pointe (8-0, 4-0 Region 3-AAAA) undefeated and further distanced Strait Herrons team from the pack, after Upstate upset losses for previously undefeated York and Byrnes. The Stallions manhandling of their local rivals was their fifth win in seven games against Rock Hill (2-6, 1-3), and also earned them the city championship for the second year running, following a 28-25 win over Northwestern earlier in the season.
Were the smallest of the three, said Herron, and we dont try to talk about that a lot, but were really a 3-A school. Im proud of our coaches and players for the hard work they put in, and thats where it comes from.
Friday nights game was a slobber-knocker early, with neither team able to muster much offense. The two teams combined for seven punts in a scoreless first quarter, but Johnsons special teams intervention charged the Stallions offensive batteries, and Devin Starnes interception near midfield got them the ball back early in the second quarter. Davonta Blake, starting instead of Devin Pearson at quarterback for a second successive game, ran for 24 yards, then converted a fourth and 1, before nosediving into the end zone from inside of a yard to make it 13-0 before the half. Blake had another solid performance, completing 12-of-22 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown in place of Pearson, who played defense but isnt playing quarterback due to a broken bone in his left hand.
Blakes good; hes got a really good spirit about him, hes upbeat, keeps the offensive line up, Simms noted. And hes got a cannon for an arm in the passing game.
Said Blake, a junior: Im filling some big shoes with Devin Pearson being out, but Ive been playing football my whole life. Its nothing new; Ive just got to step up and make big plays, and thats what Im trying to do.
Any suspense heading into the second half quickly dissipated. Rock Hill fumbled a long snap at its own 5-yard line on the first drive, giving the Stallions cushy field position. C.J. Pendergrass scored the first of his two touchdowns shortly thereafter to make it 19-0.
As its done so often this season, the South Pointe defense put the clamps on the visitors. Josh Massey stepped in front of a Josh Erby pass deep in the Bearcats end, one of three Stallions interceptions, and Pendergrass scored on the ensuing play, squirming free up the middle before showcasing his speed on a 19-yard scoring run.
Joe Montgomerys Rock Hill offense has certainly had its struggles this year, only managing one first down in the first half of a loss to Fort Mill last week, and they were limited to 74 yards in the second half by South Pointe on Friday night. The shutout was the second this season for a Stallions defense allowing opponents less than 11 points per game.
Our defense is phenomenal, said Simms. They give us (the offense) a cushion and let us get ourselves rolling.
A postgame scrap marred last years contest, a 28-21 South Pointe win. The effects were felt this offseason with both schools participation in preseason scrimmages and jamborees limited. Both head coaches made clear they were embarrassed last year, and there was no repeat this year despite plenty of jawing between the two sides and several unsportsmanlike penalties.
Before we came out of the school I talked to them about respect, said Herron. I told them you respect everyone at all times under any conditions, even your opponents. I thought we did a lot better this year.
South Pointe 32, Rock Hill 0
SPHS -- Anthony Johnson 72 punt return (Logan Ard kick)
SPHS -- Davonta Blake 1 run (run failed)
SPHS C.J. Pendergrass 5 run (pass failed)
SPHS Pendergrass 19 run (kick failed)
SPHS Johnson 24 pass from Blake (Ard kick)
RUSHING RHHS Josh Erby 21-41; Jonathan Adams 10-70. SPHS C.J. Pendergrass 10-43; Davonta Blake 11-22; Josh Brice 7-70; Logan Ard 1-12; Devion Williams 3- -9.
PASSING RHHS Erby 14-27-3-0. SPHS Blake 12-22-0-1.
RECEIVING RHHS Jaleel Scott 1-13; DeAnte Flemming 1-18; Jason Romero 1-22; Adams 6- -7; Tre Thompson 1-0; Malik Crawford 1-5; Jauquan Feaster 3-8. SPHS Anthony Johnson 4-93; Jonathan Hall 3-32; DeShawn Davis 4-19; P.J. Heath 2-33.
RECORDS RHHS 2-6, 1-3; SPHS 8-0, 4-0
Bret McCormick 329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T