ROCK HILL — Northwesterns defense is eating well on Monday.
The No. 1-ranked Trojans shut out South Pointe 27-0 Friday night the first defensive goose egg in the brief series between the two crosstown rivals to improve to 6-0 on the season. The sterling defensive effort against a South Pointe team reeling from the loss of its starting quarterback Tay Blake, who was arrested earlier in the week and suspended from the team, will result in a mess of pizza and chicken wings being consumed next week.
I told them on Wednesday, shut em out boys and were eating on Monday, Northwestern coach Kyle Richardson said afterward. Were eating on Monday. A little Northwestern old school tradition.
The Trojans (6-0, 2-0) built a 13-0 halftime lead, then buried the host Stallions (4-2, 1-1) in the fourth quarter with two more touchdowns. Senior defensive back Jaquavious Mackey made one of the Trojans two interceptions on South Pointe rookie starting quarterback Zaylin Burris, and also returned a punt 40 yards in the fourth quarter that set up Mason Rudolphs second 1-yard touchdown run of the game, all but killing off the contest late. Richardson and Mackey reiterated that there was only ever one focus for the Trojans camp in the run-up to the game.
We just came out and played our game like we was coached to do, and how we practiced all week, said Mackey. We didnt care about the quarterback.
Richardson: I challenged our defense dont get caught up in all the turmoil and distractions, because at the end of the day, theres a football game on Friday and the focus, bottom line, is on Northwestern.
Burris, a sophomore, was solid in his first start in place of Blake, completing 15 of 27 passes, but he was intercepted twice and only threw for 74 yards. Stud Stallions receiver Anthony Johnson, who entered the game with seven touchdowns and a 30-yard-per-catch average, was held to four grabs for just 35 yards and five carries for 20 more yards on direct snaps. South Pointe as a team was limited to just 190 yards of offense.
Defense just stepped up to the plate, Richardson said.
Much of the game was closer than the final score indicated. Corey Seargents interception in the end zone just before the half squelched a promising South Pointe drive, and Strait Herrons team looked to be in business when Josh Massey made a beautiful diving interception of Rudolphs pass midway through the third quarter, only the Trojans second turnover as a team this season.
But as happened so often Friday night, the Stallions werent able to capitalize and Northwestern forced a punt. On one such boot in the fourth quarter, Mackey angled his return toward the right sideline behind a wall of purple and gold and wouldve scored but for the intervention of the Stallion punter. Were replay available it may have shown the nimble defensive back staying in bounds en route to the end zone.
That was a touchdown, Mackey said, grinning. I was stumbling a little bit, but it was a touchdown.
Little matter. Rudolph powered into the end zone two plays later to put the Trojans ahead 20-0 with 6 minutes, 37 seconds left. All seven of Rudolphs rushing touchdowns this season have been 1-yard efforts.
The game was clinched on the next possession when Josh Miller stonewalled South Pointe back Josh Brice on a fourth and short near midfield to give the ball back to the Trojan offense. Harper Woods spelled Rudolph at quarterback and had enough time to fire a dart into Quadarius Fairs stride for a 31-yard touchdown, part of an eight-catch, 140-yard receiving night for Fair.
Northwestern then recovered a pooched kickoff when Seargent ran under the kick before any Stallions. That sealed the shutout for the visitors, the second time in three games that the South Pointe offense had been blanked. Herron didnt stick around to offer any possible insights; he bolted to the locker room, an ignominious end to a hellish week.
That left Northwesterns defensive players still soaking up congratulations on the Stallion field to ponder their selections for Mondays pig-out. Mackey already knows his order: Honey hot fingers.
Northwestern 27, South Pointe 0
NHS Mason Rudolph 1 run (Sully Foy kick)
NHS Mustafia Love 19 pass from Rudolph (kick failed)
NHS Rudolph 1 run (Foy kick)
NHS Quadarius Fair 31 pass from Harper Woods (Foy kick)
RUSHING: NHS: Mason Rudolph 11-36; Dupree Hart 9-16; Chris Bowler 1-1; Tori Adams 4-0; Julian Shockley 1-(-1). SPHS: Josh Brice 16-53; Zaylin Burris 8-38; Anthony Johnson 5-20; Bree Minor 1-4; Vinny Emmanuele 1-1.
PASSING: NHS: Rudolph 25-39-1-1; Harper Woods 1-1-0-1. SPHS: Burris 15-27-2-0; Johnson 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING: NHS: Quadarius Fair 8-140; Mustafia Love 10-79; Hart 4-48; Quiveon Beckham 2-21; Ahmad Dewese 1-5; Adams 1-(-3). SPHS: Johnson 4-35; Nick McCloud 3-11; Kyle Brandt 2-15; DeShawn Davis 2-3; Daquan Robinson 1-4; Montez McCullough 1-4; Brice 1-(-3).
RECORDS: NHS 6-0, 2-0; SPHS 4-2, 1-1
Bret McCormick • 329-4032. Twitter: @BretJust1T