YORK — The play unfolded on a projector screen then froze suddenly. York defensive coordinator David Prince rewound the film, or digital file in this case, back to the beginning of a South Pointe offensive play and aimed his laser pointer upward.
Youre lined up wrong, he chided a Cougars linebacker, sitting behind him in a darkened narrow room. Youre too tight.
It was a scene almost certainly being reproduced across the county at South Pointe High School as the Cougars and Stallions prepare for their Friday night meeting in the second round of the Class AAAA-DII football playoffs.
Bobby Carrolls York (10-2) squad knocked off Strait Herrons South Pointe (11-1) team in their regular season meeting. The Cougars 31-17 win was the Stallions only defeat this season, and heightened the anticipation ahead of Fridays game that will showcase two of the states best defenses.
Its a chess match, said Carroll, who got his head coaching start during a highly successful five years at South Pointe. Devin Pearson is a quality athlete, theyve got good running backs over there, theyre very well coached, theyve got good receivers. So, youve just got to balance it out. Were just gonna have to take what we can get and try to stop them with five in the box.
York comes into Friday nights game on the strength of consecutive 50-point bashings a 54-0 win over Clover to close the regular season and an eye-opening 56-0 whitewashing of Laurens in the first round of the state playoffs last Friday.
The Cougars held those two teams to a combined 104 yards of total offense. York has allowed just 114 points in 12 games, an average of less than 10 allowed per contest, the fewest statewide in Class AAAA.
Our offense is great, and has come a long way, but our defense is where we like to have all our athletes, said senior defensive lineman Beau Nunn, a recent North-South All-Star selection. I think thats whats carried us through a lot of this year.
Carroll and his staff decided to shift to a 3-3-5 system before the start of this season. The Cougars were set to face nine spread offenses in 11 games, and needed a defense that could checkmate opposing scoring units, whether they primarily ran or threw. Gone were the days of stacking the box and just clogging running lanes.
Instead, the Cougars have held their ground up front, enabling their defensive athletes to fly around the field making plays. York has forced 40 turnovers in 12 games, including 26 interceptions (led by Jiquese Browns seven), and have 10 non-offensive touchdowns to boot. Two of those proved the difference in Yorks two-score win over South Pointe last month. The idea isnt new: Carrolls 2008 South Pointe team finished the year with 24 non-offensive touchdowns.
Were trying to build that same reputation and quality program at York, he said Tuesday.
York positions three sturdy linemen up front Nunn, Lawrence Adams and Tay Reid usually with the assignment of occupying gaps and blockers. The Cougars talented and deep linebacking group, especially standouts Lee Wright and Rominique Mobley, are freed to make plays, something theyve done with bill-collector reliability this season.
Wright, a Shrine Bowl selection, and Mobley have 128 and 112 tackles, respectively, and the pair have combined for six interceptions and eight non-offensive touchdowns (including Wrights punt return touchdowns). Mobley also has a team-high 14 tackles for loss. No doubt a South Pointe position coach has laser-pointed him during a film session this week.
After York shellacked Laurens, Raiders coach Greg Lawson told GoLaurens.com: You have to take your hat off to their defense because they werent letting it happen. When you have all those white jerseys in your face before you can even set your feet, its hard to say what went wrong.
The shutout meant another Wednesday of pizza and wings for the Cougars defense, a reward theyve reaped often this year. Yorks four shutouts are the most in Class AAAA.
We like shutouts, said Nunn, almost licking the buffalo sauce from his lips.
Despite the sparkling defensive stats, the Cougars assume a humility when speaking about the challenge of stopping South Pointes spread offense, expertly piloted by standout quarterback Pearson. Many teams spread out their offenses to pass the ball; South Pointe takes advantage by spreading out defenses to create massive running lanes for Pearson, and running backs C.J. Pendergrass and Josh Brice. Every time Prince paused the film on Tuesday, a Cougars defender had a decision to make: lunge at Pearson or the ball-carrier?
They didnt always make the right one. But armed with a blueprint of how to beat the Stallions, there was an air of belief Tuesday at the Cougars field house.
I think this games gonna come down to who plays harder and who makes the least mistakes, said York safety Chad Hill, who has four interceptions and a team-high 14 pass break-ups. The last game South Pointe had a lot of key mistakes that really set them back, and I think as long as we play with that attitude and swagger, and try to stay away from the penalties, well be all right.
Bret McCormick 329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T