South Pointe can beat York Friday night if safety/linebacker Josh Massey buzzes around the Cougars’ backfield like a hornet loose from an angry hive. When the 6-foot, 170-pound Massey has been his most active, especially attacking the quarterback, the Stallions (7-2, 4-1 in Region 3) have been dominant defensively.
Older fans watching Massey fly around the field at South Pointe games could be forgiven for double-taking. His dad Leonard, or Cookie as he’s called by most folks, did much the same 25 years earlier at Northwestern, setting a golden precedent for the family’s latest football standout. Those kinds of father-son legacy situations can go well, or terribly, depending on the people involved.
“I think it’s more of a blessing, because he’s always helped me,” said Josh. “There’s times when I’m out there doing my own thing and I hear ‘Cookie would’ve been proud’ or ‘Cookie did this,’ but it also pushes me a little bit. He’s got state records.”
“We had long conversations and I always told him, ‘son, you ain’t gonna get nothing by what your dad’s done,’” Cookie said. “If you want it, you got to step up and you earn it. Everything he’s receiving now, he has earned it.”
When Massey was 7 or 8 years old, he would walk into his closet and see his father’s Shrine Bowl jacket from 1988 and marvel. Massey always wanted to play in a high school football all-star game like Cookie, who holds the South Carolina state record with five interceptions in a 1987 game, and later starred at the University of North Carolina in both football and baseball.
“That set the bar for him, right there,” Cookie said.
Now, Josh will get his chance. He was selected to the North-South All-Star football game Wednesday.
“When coach (Strait) Herron came and told me, I was ecstatic when I found out,” Massey said. “That’s just been a dream of mine.”
On the field, Massey has been a nightmare for opponents, notching 57 tackles and three forced fumbles. He’s also returned a fumble and an interception for a touchdown, and recorded a safety against Spartanburg, part of 10 defensive scores by the Stallions this season.
“He’s got the DNA,” said York coach Bobby Carroll, who was Cookie’s defensive coordinator at Northwestern. “He’s just a real active player. He’s a smart kid who makes a bunch of plays.”
Massey and the Stallions defense have helped carry the team while its offense and sophomore quarterback Zaylin Burris steadily grow. South Pointe is surrendering just 74.3 rushing yards and 15 points per game, including just 17 points total in the last three weeks.
Only two teams have rushed for more than 100 yards against South Pointe this season, but the Stallions face one of their biggest run defense exams Friday against York and its North-South running back Ryan Moore. They’ve been glued to film of Northwestern’s win over York last week, eager to see how the Trojans held Moore to just 16 yards in the first half while building an insurmountable lead.
“We watched it a lot because we wanted to see somebody that had some success against that offense,” Massey said. “See if we can incorporate some of that this week.”
South Pointe’s defensive stoutness begins with its physical and experienced defensive line. Led by Shrine Bowler Zeek Rodney, and Matt Newman, Jontae Henry, Tay Robinson-Locke, Brandon Fisher, Nick Adams and others, the hogs up front occupy space, blockers and opposing coaches’ mid-week thoughts.
“Those guys up front make it hard for teams to run the ball,” said South Pointe coach Strait Herron. “But of course, they’ve got a huge challenge Friday.”
The Stallion defensive line clears up room for Massey and other backers to either blitz the quarterback unimpeded, or stalk the secondary knowing a panicky pass from a desperate quarterback is soon to be wobbling through the Friday night sky.
“I think having that pressure up front allows all those linebackers to be able to run to the ball more,” Herron said.
The front line attack has helped Massey get noticed, something he hopes will continue in December at the North-South game when he hops in the recruiting shop window one last time.
He’s got scholarship offers from a slew of Football Championship Series schools – Campbell, Charleston Southern, Furman, Gardner-Webb, Liberty, Presbyterian, The Citadel, Wofford, Youngstown State, Ball State, Mercer and Appalachian State – and official visits lined up to Old Dominion, Youngstown State, The Citadel and either Wofford or Liberty.
But Massey has higher aspirations. Befitting of a young man with a 4.5 grade point average who says he wants to be a business leader, Massey wants to hear from three schools in particular: Duke, Vanderbilt and Virginia.
“Those three really stood out in my mind,” he said. “Hopefully, I can make an impression on those three somehow.”
“He’s the type of kid you want to see good things happen to,” Herron said. “We want all of our kids to be successful, but he has his head on straight, he’s doing the right things in the classroom, on the street and on the field. Very proud of him.”
Cookie, the father who achieved so much himself, now knows that hanging that Shrine Bowl jacket in his son’s room many years ago was a smart move.
“We’re so tickled he reached that goal that he set years ago,” said the elder Massey.
It’s a delicate dance, the relationship between the father, a local legend, and his son, but there are some areas where the son just won’t ever measure up. South Pointe linebackers coach Dexter Falls calls Josh Massey “Chopper.” No matter how well he plays, the son will never have a nickname as sweet as his dad’s.
Bret McCormick • 803-329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T