ROCK HILL — Rock Hill High School jumped on an unfocused Northwestern team Friday night in the two teams rivalry meeting at District Three Stadium, snatching a quick 14-0 lead.
But the Trojans responded with 41 straight en route to a 48-21 regular season finale win that clinched the regions No. 2 seed in the state playoffs that start next weekend.
The Bearcats were fired up from the start on their Senior Night, but Kyle Richardsons Trojans got moving in the second quarter and amassed 551 yards of offense to eventually steamroll Rock Hill in the second half and win their third straight in the series.
I didnt think our focus was there before the game, said Richardson. There was a lot of issues we were having to deal with. Luckily, we woke up after 14 points, but at this point in the season you cant come out not ready to play football. As coaches, weve got to do a better job of getting them ready.
Rock Hill coach Joe Montgomery knew his team (3-8 overall, 2-5 in Region 3) faced an uphill task stopping the Trojans offensive juggernaut.
You gotta keep scoring, he said after his teams season had ended. We got off to a good start then we bogged down.
DuPree Hart had 152 yards of total offense and three touchdowns for Northwestern, while LaThomas Long added two second half scores on the ground and Rontavious McClure and Mustafia Love combined for 198 yards receiving in a multifaceted offensive assault.
The purple and gold offense was hot, and it all started up front with the offensive line of Jasheem Baxter, Kyle Jordan, Anthony Ruhff, Raydon McCloud and J.P. Titus, a group averaging 294 pounds per blocker.
We felt like coming into the game we were going to be able to run the ball, said Richardson. Once we got the run going the pass would open up.
Baxter, the biggest of the bunch at 325 pounds, agreed.
We basically thought our offensive line was better than their defensive line, he said afterward, noting that the Trojans arent just a passing team. We felt that if we just held our blocks and gave our backs time to hit the hole, we could win. We can run the ball too.
Heading into Friday nights contest, there wasnt any of the hype like the 1989 regular season finale, when both schools were undefeated and battling for the No. 1 seed in the state playoffs and 9,600 advance tickets were sold for the game, or 2002, when the two teams met with one combined loss. But Rock Hill suggested there might be a classic upset in the works when it struck twice in the opening six minutes to take a 14-0 lead.
The Bearcats drove 70 yards on the opening possession to take a 7-0 lead after Josh Erby hit Jaleel Scott, who had seven grabs for 123 yards, with a 14-yard touchdown pass. The Trojans responded with a nice drive, but fumbled in Bearcat territory and DeShawn McFadden took the loose ball about 70 yards the other way to put Rock Hill up two scores.
After falling behind, Northwesterns defense forced the Bearcats to punt on their next four drives, while scoring on three of their own, to claim the lead. Hart capped a nice drive with an eight-yard run, before dashing past the Bearcat secondary to catch a Mason Rudolph lob for a 33-yard touchdown pass to tie it up.
Loves 31-yard score on a short screen pass put Northwestern in front with eight minutes left in the half. Then Richardsons defense turned back a Rock Hill drive at the end of the half, Marcus Marshall intercepting Josh Erby on the goal line to squelch the threat and send the Trojans into the locker room in good spirits.
To get that pick there, to go into halftime knowing we have a lead and were going to get the ball, that was huge, said Richardson. Really proud of our defense.
In the second half, the refocused Trojans mowed over the smaller Bearcats. Touchdown drives of 13 plays for 77 yards, nine plays for 70 yards, and the back-breaker, a punishing 16-play, 95-yard march wilted the Rock Hill resistance. The Bearcats threw an interception, fumbled a hand-off that was returned for a touchdown and turned the ball over on downs, before finally scoring with 3:42 left, backup quarterback Jamel Simpson finding DeAnte Flemming with a 14-yard touch pass to make it 48-21.
The damage had been inflicted by that point. Offensive lines generally dont receive much ink from the press, but good ones like Northwesterns have the unquestioned love of their running backs.
Maybe they should get attention, said Long, because Monday to Tuesday they work their butt off. They deserve it.
Plus, he added, Its good to have some big boys to run behind. They keep us safe.
Northwestern 48, Rock Hill 21
Scoring summaryRHHS - Jaleel Scott 14 pass from Josh Erby (Harrison Dixon kick)
RHHS - Dashawn McFadden 75 yard fumble recovery (Dixon kick)
NHS - Dupree Hart 8 run (Sully Foy kick)
NHS - Hart 34 pass from Mason Rudolph (Foy kick)
NHS - Mustafia Love 31 pass from Rudolph (Foy kick)
NHS - Lathomas Long 2 run (Foy kick)
NHS - Long 4 run (Foy kick)
NHS - Hart 6 run (Josh Bell kick failed)
NHS - Jakari Golden 36 yard fumble recovery (Bell kick)
RHHS - DeAnte Flemming 19 pass from Jamel Simpson (Dixon kick)
RUSHING NHS: Tori Adams 11-90; LaThomas Long 10-48; DuPree Hart 6-42; Julian Shockley 5-32; Mason Rudolph 8-24. RHHS: Justin Stokes 2-42; Jonathan Adams 11-50; Jamel Simpson 1-7; Josh Erby 11-20.
PASSING NHS: Rudolph 26-35-0-2; Matthew Worley 1-1-0-0. RHHS: Erby 16-31-2-1; Simpson 1-2-0-1; Jaleel Scott 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING NHS: Rontavious McClure 8-94; Mustafia Love 7-104; Hart 6-110; Ahmad Dewese 2-8; Antonio Hardy 2-11; Adams 2-6. RHHS: Scott 7-123; DeAnte Flemming 2-25; Chris Salerno 2-25; Tre Thompson 2-22; Malik Crawford 2-11; JauQuan Feaster 1-6; Adams 1-3.
RECORDS NHS 9-2, 6-1; RHHS 3-8, 2-5