High School Football Northwestern at York

Styles at odds when York and Northwestern clash

Contrasting styles of Cougars, Trojans come together in region clash

bmccormick@heraldonline.comOctober 19, 2012 

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There won’t be any surprises when Northwestern and York bash heads Friday night in a crunch Region 3-AAAA football clash. Though the two talent-loaded, state-ranked squads espouse antithetical schemes and mentalities, the players and coaches know each other in detail.

York’s defense has allowed the second fewest points in Class AAAA, while Northwestern has scored the third most. It’s the Air Raid offense versus the Black Reign defense. Boy, it’s gonna be fun.

York coach Bobby Carroll agreed.

“It’s gonna come down to four or five plays, and that’s gonna’ make the game,” he said Wednesday evening. “I don’t think there’s any secrets. Coach Richardson believes in his system, they’re well coached and they’ve got a great team. I coached over there for 22 years and you’re not just playing a football team, you’re playing a traditional powerhouse.”

That’s respect that Carroll is trying to build at his alma mater since taking over last year. Ranked 10th in the latest South Carolina Media Poll, the Cougars (7-1 overall, 3-1 in Region 3) won their first seven games of the season, before slipping up last week in a 20-17 overtime loss to Nation Ford. It wasn’t ideal preparation heading into a headache-inducing contest with seventh ranked Northwestern (6-2, 3-1), but Carroll gave Nation Ford credit for making plays, and said the loss is behind his team.

“When you’re in this business, you learn to let ’em go,” he said, “because you don’t want one loss to cause another one. Great players and great teams learn from adversity, and that’s the only way to get better.”

Northwestern already had blemishes on its record, though three- and four-point losses to Byrnes and South Pointe – teams with one loss combined – would hardly be considered blemishes. Richardson thinks those challenges will enhance his team’s chances, should the game go to the fourth quarter close.

“We set up a tough schedule in the non-region to hopefully play well in the region,” said Northwestern’s coach. “Going into the environment that we’re going into in York, we feel like playing Byrnes at Byrnes and Gaffney at Gaffney, and going on the road to play Conway when they were ranked in the Top 10, is helping us prepare for these next three weeks, and then the playoffs.”

The South Pointe tilt might have been Northwestern’s best preparation for York. The Stallions’ defense is one of the best in the state, but York’s might be even better. Last week’s 20 points allowed to Nation Ford was the most the Cougars have surrendered in a season where they’re holding opponents to just 9.25 points per game. They have given up double digit points three times this year in eight games.

“It’s a typical Bobby Carroll defense,” said Richardson. “Aggressive, good and that’s what he’s known for and that’s what he’s got together over there at York this year. We’ve got to execute offensively to have any success, especially against that good of a defense.”

Limiting turnovers will be crucial for the Trojans, because one of the most worrying facets of the York squad is the consistency with which the Cougars score non-offensive points. The Cougars have 18 interceptions on the year, led by Jiquese Brown who’s nabbed six opposing quarterbacks’ passes. Three of the Cougar picks have gone back for touchdowns, while many of the others have led to short fields for the offensive unit.

Senior Lee Wright, the team’s leading tackler, has not only returned two interceptions for touchdowns this year, but also a pair of punts.

“When (Carroll) was at South Pointe, you would look up and they would have 14, 21 points that didn’t come from one offensive snap,” Richardson explained. “And they may have another 14 that came from having a short field because of the turnover. He’s done the same thing at York. Their defense scores a lot of points, their special teams scores a lot of points, and anything their offense gets is just icing on the cake.”

Northwestern has faced frugal defenses already. The Trojans hung 20-plus points on South Pointe, the only team to do so this season, and they also racked up a combined 104 points on Conway and Gaffney – hardly surprising to Carroll.

“Kyle is such an offensive guy and we’ve been coaching against him for four or five years,” said the York coach. “He’s not doing anything different, he’s just got different players. But they’re a really good team and probably the most athletic team we’ve seen this year.”

Northwestern has an array of offensive targets and junior quarterback Mason Rudolph has the keys to the sports car, an offense currently averaging 44 points and 450 yards per outing. Rudolph’s play has jumped immensely in his second year as the Trojans’ starter, to the extent that he picked up a scholarship offer from LSU earlier this week.

Receivers DuPree Hart, Rontavious McClure, a recent Shrine Bowl selection, and Mustafia Love are all pressing for postseason honors with their assembly line-like production.

Northwestern advances the ball down the field with mechanical fine-tuning, Rudolph hitting several targets for short gains, softening up the defense for a touchdown bomb down the field. The clinical precision, and Richardson’s propensity to innovate and add wrinkles, makes preparing for the Trojans a difficult task.

Plus, “you really can’t simulate their tempo at practice,” said Carroll.

Northwestern wants its quarterback to get rid of the ball within three seconds; York hopes to hit him before that. It’s a classic stylistic clash between one team with an explosive offense and another with a suffocating defense.

As Richardson said, “In a game like this something’s got to give.”

Bret McCormick 329-4032. Twitter: @BretJust1T

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