York school board member Chris Stephenson knows all about York Comprehensive High School’s 1986 3-A state football champions.
Stephenson, a tight end for the ’86 team that defeated Strom Thurmond 10-0 in the state title game at Williams-Brice Stadium, was an impact player, a difference-maker, a leader on and off the field.
Stephenson said the ’86 team had a lot in common with this year’s Cougars team, which will be pitted against Spartanburg in the Dec. 6 4-A Division 11 state title game at Williams-Brice.
“There are a lot of similarities,” said Stephenson. “Bill Pate’s team won the state championship in his fourth year as head coach in York. Bobby Carroll is in his fourth year as head coach of the Cougars.”
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Stephenson said the ’86 Cougars lost some early games but took their play to another level when the playoffs began.
“This year’s team has been building momentum in the playoffs,” he said. “Our team was solid at every position, and so is this team.”
Stephenson also said that his class stayed together from seventh grade through high school.
“This year’s senior football players have done the same thing,” he said. “They lost one game from seventh grade to ninth grade and were unbeaten as freshman Cougars.”
Stephenson said his team played with talented juniors and seniors when they were sophomores.
“This year’s senior team members played with established players when they were sophomores,” he said.
Stephenson, a self-driven, physical player opponents preferred to avoid, said he likes what he sees in senior quarterback Deshaw Andrews.
“I think Deshaw is the best quarterback in the state,” said Stephenson. “He’s big and versatile with the run and pass. Against River Bluff, he carried players to the end zone from the 10 and ran over two others.”
On the ’86 Cougar team, Robert Burkins was their Daurice Simpson, with a tad more emphasis on defense.
Simpson is known for his explosiveness with the ball in his hands; Burkins had 14 interceptions his senior year, tops in the state.
Mark Smith quarterbacked the ’86 Cougars, often finding Burkins or Stephenson with the game on the line. Smith went on to break the freshman passing record at Western Carolina University.
Stephenson looks back on his playing days at York with pride. He said he believes in this year’s Cougar team and is looking forward to the Dec. 6 game.
“They are a great team,” he said. “I am proud of them.”