Rock Hill stars make decisive plays late in SC's Shrine Bowl win

bmccormick@heraldonline.comDecember 21, 2013 

  • How Rock Hill’s trio fared

    • South Pointe’s Zeek Rodney had three tackles, and a slick tackle-for-loss on Hood field goal block

    • Northwestern’s Mason Rudolph, who was named South Carolina’s offensive MVP, completed 15 of 22 passes for 182 yards and three touchdown passes, including the game-winner

    • Northwestern’s Corey Seargent made three tackles in a secondary that didn’t allow a passing touchdown

— This victory in the 77th annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas is brought to you by the city of Rock Hill.

Two of Rock Hill’s finest, South Pointe’s Zeek Rodney and Northwestern’s Mason Rudolph, made the plays late as the Sandlappers scored with 16 seconds left in Saturday’s game in Spartanburg to beat North Carolina’s all-stars 28-23.

After Charlotte Catholic running back Elijah Hood scored his third touchdown of the game to put the Tarheels in front 23-21 with 1 minute, 54 seconds left, Rodney burst through the middle of the kick protection to block Freeman Jones’ extra point. The kick block was crucial because Tommy Brown’s South Carolina could win with a field goal, but with Rudolph quarterbacking the team in a 2-minute drill, three points wasn’t all the hosts got.

Rudolph, who was named South Carolina’s offensive MVP of the game, marched the Sandlappers 68 yards with 10 plays in 1 minute, 40 seconds. The culminating score was a beauty, Rudolph lobbing a pass to Gaffney’s Shaq Davidson near the left sideline of the end zone, and the South Carolina Gamecock commitment stretching to his fullest to haul in the 21-yard pass, ultimately the game-winner.

Yes, a Northwestern Trojan tossed a winning touchdown to a Gaffney Indian.

“Thankfully, we’ve had some experience with 2-minute drills – we try to go fast all the time at Northwestern - but the last drive was great,” said Rudolph. “Put the ball in the hands of some pretty great receivers; it was a great team win.”

“We kind of practiced it in practice, the quick gains and getting the ball out of his hands,” said Davidson, “and we just depended on him to put the ball where it’s supposed to be.”

After Rudolph’s hot start to the game, it was a bit surprising that the contest was close at all. While the South Carolina defense held North Carolina to 26 yards of total offense in the first half, Rudolph threw touchdown passes on the Sandlappers’ first two drives of the game to open up a 14-0 lead. Rudolph and Stratford’s Jacob Park alternated quarters, but it was Rudolph who emerged with the MVP award after completing 15 of 22 passes for 182 yards and three touchdown passes.

“It’s awesome,” said Rudolph. “I’ve been blessed by God, and it’s an all-around great experience, to meet guys on the team like this and play with some of the best talent in the state.”

The Oklahoma State signee completed 8 of 12 passes for 109 yards and a pair of touchdown tosses in the first 11 minutes of the game.

“We just got into it early,” he said. “I did have a kind of rough third quarter, but I was able to bounce back.”

A 40-yard run by Clemson commit Jae’lon Oglesby moved the Sandlappers into North Carolina turf on the first drive, before Rudolph sold a nice shoulder fake that duped the Tar Heel secondary, allowing Tyshun Samuel to run past his defender for an easy 21-yard touchdown connection near the back of the end zone.

The Sandlappers led by two scores after Rudolph engineered an 11-play, 79-yard drive that consumed nearly 5 minutes of clock. The Northwestern quarterback hit tight end Kevin Crosby for a 20-yard gain, before picking up a fourth and 1 with a 7-yard scamper up the middle. His 33-yard touchdown pass was a pretty conclusion to the possession, made possible after Rudolph stepped up in the pocket and escaped pressure before flicking a ball over the defense to Byrnes receiver Shaedon Meadors, who had sneaked behind unnoticed.

Park’s second quarter was offensively fruitless but South Carolina took its 14-0 lead into the break unscathed, thanks to a stout and stingy Sandlapper defensive unit, led by Hartsville’s DeQuan Reddick, who had two first half sacks, and cousins K.J and Poona Ford, who had a sack each. Rodney was also a factor with three tackles and a slick tackle-for-loss on Hood.

But North Carolina got its offense moving in the second half, scoring 17 unanswered points to take the lead. The source was no mystery: steady doses of Hood.

“We knew they were gonna come out and ‘Hood’ us to death,” said Brown, laughing. “We just wanted to slow him down. We missed some tackles because he’s a great back, but we slowed him down enough to give our offense a chance to get in the game.”

He finished with 92 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries, but ultimately may have crossed the goal line on his final score with too much time left on the clock.

“I wasn’t thinking about that,” said Hood. “I had full trust in my defense when we went out there.”

Hood may not have been worried, but neither were Rudolph’s teammates and coaches.

“That’s what he does best,” said Brown. “We knew if anybody could get it done, he would do it.”

Bret McCormick •  803-329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T

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