Stallions out to avoid sugar crash against Chester

bmccormick@heraldonline.comSeptember 5, 2013 

South Pointe coach Strait Herron is determined to solve his team's slow starts to games.


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    Question that will be answered: Can Chester clean up its act and give a state-ranked Class AAAA team all it can handle? The talented and physical Cyclones whiffed on an upset shot against York in the season opener because of two blocked punts and three lost fumbles. They’ll get blown out Friday if they repeat that effort against the Stallions.

    Overlooked: South Pointe’s second half defense has been stifling thus far. The Stallions shut out both Irmo and Blythewood in the second halves of wins over those teams. Chester needs a fast start against a team that strengthens as the game wears on.

    Exclamation point: South Pointe’s Anthony Johnson and Chester’s Quan Caldwell will gladly provide the exclamation points. Johnson has nine catches for an area-best 388 yards in two games, an average of 43 yards per grab. The 6-foot-4 senior has touchdown receptions of 77, 28, 90 and 30 yards already. Caldwell hasn’t been bad either. The senior has just four catches so far, but they’ve gone for 211 yards, an average of 52 yards per ball. He’s caught a 78-yard TD pass, and also ran a kickoff back 92 yards for another score.

Like many teenagers, South Pointe's football team doesn't always show up on time.

The Stallions have shown an occasional habit of playing stale first halves, only to crank up the effort, energy and focus in second half dismantlings of opposition victims. What gives?

“I’ve tried to figure it out,” said South Pointe coach Strait Herron, sitting at his desk and shaking his head Wednesday.

He reckons it’s similar to a sugar crash.

“I’m wondering if they’re over-excited, they’re just so pumped up that as soon as they come out and the adrenaline rush leaves them, they just kind of bottom out.”

Last year’s South Pointe-Chester game is a perfect example. The two teams went into the half tied 0-0, after combining for just 56 yards of offense in a sloppy, mucked-up first 24 minutes of football that certainly suited Anthony Sterling’s squad.

But something snapped into place for South Pointe in the locker room and they ran over the Cyclones in the second half, pinning 30 on the visitors in a 30-0 win.

Other games last year – Lancaster, Northwestern and Greenwood especially – strengthen the sentiment that the Stallions are notoriously slow starters.

“We may just be one of those second half teams,” Herron said, “though it may cause you to pull your hair out for a half.”

Defensively, second halves have thus far been spotless for South Pointe. Leading Blythewood 26-24 at the half last week, the Stallions scored 21 points in the second half without response from the Bengals in a 47-24 victory. In Week Zero, Herron’s club led Irmo 21-17 at the break, before skunking the Yellow Jackets in the second half of a victory by the same score. South Pointe, ranked No. 5 in the state’s Class AAAA poll, has yet to surrender a second half point this season.

Chester, the state’s No. 7 Class AAA team, will put that second half goose egg to the test Friday.

“They’re very athletic,” said Herron. “We’ve got to beat them in the special teams game and execute on offense. We’ve got our hands full.”

Sterling feels that if his team can clean up its special teams execution and turnover problems, it can hang with the Stallions.

“For the last couple of weeks we’ve been guttin’ them pretty good trying to eliminate those things and play at a high level,” he said.

Chester would willingly accept another sluggish first half from the visiting Stallions. Sterling’s team was as surprised by South Pointe’s slow start in the 2012 contest as Herron’s team was.

“Our guys went in the locker room and kind of celebrated a little bit and got unfocused on the job they had to do in the second half,” Sterling said. “We went out there in that second half and kind of thought we had everything in the bag, and took a couple of steps backward and got beat.”

Because there aren’t enough unexpected curveballs during the course of a high school football season, South Pointe caught another one earlier in the week. Offensive coordinator Patch Cox, who was just hired in July, quit his post over the weekend, leaving Herron with only an email that said the reason was “a severe personal issue beyond his control.”

Fortunately for the Stallions, Cox, who came to Rock Hill from a Louisiana high school, made no marked changes to the South Pointe offense. After a spring completed without a full-time offensive coordinator, Cox’s departure hasn’t had a big impact on the players.

“The kids aren’t really concerned, which was my major concern,” said Herron, who will call plays for the foreseeable future. “The offense is the same; we’re not changing anything.”

Herron did have to stay up until about 5 a.m. Monday morning whipping together an offensive practice plan, but there haven’t been any other hiccups. South Pointe’s position coaches – Mike Zapolnik (offensive line), Jay Currence (receivers) and Robert Beckler (running backs) – all remain unchanged, easing the situation.

Linebackers coach Dexter Falls is another Stallion position coach not going anywhere. Falls is in charge of hyping up South Pointe players before every Friday kickoff, but in light of the Stallions’ sugar crashes, the hype-man’s routine may change this week.

“I’m worried he might be starting a little too early,” Herron said.

Herron tried to keep his players on a more even keel before the Blythewood win, telling his team in the locker room, “I don’t want y’all getting jacked up right now. Go out, go through the warm-ups nice and easy, don’t kill yourself.”

Herron said the team will try to save the energy and excitement that Falls’ pregame speeches stirs up for the two minutes prior to kickoff. Every experiment has to have a control.

“This week will be an indicator whether that could be the reason,” Herron said. “We’ll find out.”

Bret McCormick •  329-4032. Twitter: @BretJust1T

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