Perception can be very important to teenagers, which is why York’s 34-19 football win over Gaffney last season was so important for Bobby Carroll’s Cougars.
The teams meet again Friday night in York, with some of the gleam and impressiveness sanded off the Indians. York’s victory at The Reservation was the Cougars’ first in the series, at least since the 1960s, and was a symbolic victory for Carroll’s program.
“Us winning 10 games back-to-back, and really beating everybody – we haven’t beaten Northwestern yet – but we’ve beaten Rock Hill, we’ve beaten South Pointe, Gaffney, I think it does give them confidence to say, ‘hey, they put their pants on the same way we do. Let’s just go out there and play,’ ” Carroll said Tuesday.
Still, York is winless in four tries at home against the Indians. Friday will be no easier.
Gaffney is rounding back into full health after star quarterback Shaq Davidson made his first appearance of the season last week following summer thumb surgery. Davidson, a wide receiver who has committed to South Carolina, was sorely missed in the Indians’ 51-19 season-opening loss to Northwestern, but lined up at cornerback last week, which is where the Cougars could see him this week.
The teams are both replacing nine defensive starters and mistakes have been abundant for each side through the first three weeks of the season. Carroll said he’d never been involved in a shootout like the Cougars’ 46-45 win over Boiling Springs last week, while Jones’ Indians were left to nurse their wounded pride after Northwestern picked them apart in Week Zero.
With so many inexperienced players on the fake turf Friday in York, perception comes into play. Gaffney may be the defending state champs, but will the Cougar players look at them that way?
Only Friday will really answer that query, but either way, the experience of playing the defending Big 16 state champions is invaluable for Carroll’s young group.
“That’s the whole reason we play Gaffney and teams of that caliber, is to get us ready for region play, which starts in three weeks,” he said.
Cougars linebacker Dario Brown, who started as a sophomore, is one of the kids stepping up into the void left by Lee Wright, Rominique Mobley, Beau Nunn and a host of other graduates. York’s win last week showed that Carroll’s team can score. Junior receiver Daurice Simpson made 15 catches for over 150 yards and a touchdown, while junior quarterback Deshaw Andrews completed 22 of 34 passes for over 350 yards and four scores before cramps sidelined him late.
Even if Davidson doesn’t play offense, Gaffney is still explosive. Running back Hyleck Foster, a Marshall commit, is a standout at tailback, “a typical Gaffney running back,” as Carroll called him, and Eddie Studyvance has spelled Davidson at quarterback about as well as possible for having never played the position until early August. Sophomore receiver Scott McCluney is a 6-foot-4 prospect that is in the process of breaking out in the Indians’ passing game.
“It’s a lot to prepare for with a young bunch, but we’ve done our homework and hopefully we’ll be able to go out there and compete,” Carroll said.
Taking the Indians down a peg last year should help the Cougars do that.
McCormick: 329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T