Rainy weather kept the city of Rock Hill’s 12-year old football all-stars indoors Wednesday night, but it didn’t stop them from continuing preparation for Saturday’s state championship.
Before practicing in the Charlotte Street YMCA gym, the group heard from South Pointe coach Strait Herron, the Stallions’ state championship winning coach, who encouraged the kids and reminded them about the importance of faith, academic success and sacrifice in their bright futures.
The present also looks good. Rock Hill’s 12-year old all-stars have won back to back state titles. They can win a third Saturday at 2 p.m. at Bluffton High School in Hilton Head. Rock Hill’s 10-year old all-stars also play for a state championship Saturday against North Charleston, at Bluffton’s May River High School.
Lawrence Brown’s 12-year old team has yet to surrender a single point in the playoffs after shutouts of Lancaster (32-0), Kershaw County (22-0) and Mauldin (16-0).
“Our middle linebackers, we keep our team hyped up,” said Qua Howard, who plays running back and linebacker. “We keep attacking and don’t let them get nothing.”
The group was goofy, like any 12-year olds, but also confident during Wednesday’s practice. Part of that stems from the all-star nature of the team. Players were picked from five different Gray-Y teams and they quickly buried any on-field beef they had with each other.
“It’s fun because I know they forgot about all that stuff in the past and now they’re on my side,” said QB Jacob McFadden.
The confidence also comes from the age group’s recent success and the accompanying expectations. And they watch the three city high schools, and the many college players from the area, and the handful of NFL players from Rock Hill, too, all of whom serve as further inspiration.
“They start here,” said Brown, who played on the Rock Hill Bearcats’ 2002 state title team and later in the Shrine Bowl as an offensive lineman. “Everybody who played on that South Pointe team has had a situation like this, whether it’s with our inner-city leagues or Rock Hill Cowboys. They start here at this age, they get that confidence, that Rock Hill football tradition right now. They look up to those guys and want to emulate what they’ve done.”
“They’re like our bigger brothers,” said offensive lineman Christian Holmes. “If they do it then that motivates us to get to the higher level.”
Rock Hill faces Mount Pleasant in Saturday’s final. The Rock Hill coaching staff got an inadvertent assist when Dillon, which Mount Pleasant beat in the Lower State championship, posted video of its state semifinal loss. That helped the Rock Hill coaches prepare for the opposition, something that’s not easy to do at this level. But with or without the extra intelligence, this group feels good about the possibility of a third straight championship.
“I like our chances anytime we step on the field,” said Brown. “It’s not an arrogance, it’s just the confidence of Rock Hill football.”
“They better be prepared,” said Holmes, smiling. “Because we’re gonna come hard.”
Jy’Quarius Gladden, Jacob McFadden, Zayvious Neely, Tyrone Butterfield, Ke’mari Boyd, Steven Howard, Tyrek Duggan, Mason Davis, William Brooks, Evion Hinton, Ali Strait, Aileem Flowers, Kaden Flagg, Jaylen Moore, A’Michael Greene, Jay’miyon McCarter, Zantwan Nelson, Travis Stuckey Jr., Zosh Walker, Christopher Dixon Jr., Christian Holmes, Zyir Gordon, Davon Adams, Noah Reed.
Coaches: Lawrence Brown, Dontae Johnson Sr., Russell Brown, Stewart Good, Ja’Naris Chisholm, Jay Brown, Jay Blake, Tangela Brown.
Odarrius Denton, L.J. Agurs, Chance Neal, Nick Oates, Jaden Paradice, Zion Thorne, Jaden Dunham, Jeremiah Williams, Marcus Walls, Cooper Montgomery, Gavin Smith, Kylan Dewese, Jaxson Craig, A’marion Coleman, Gecobie Cunningham, Michael Clauson, Tyreckis Brice, Malik Robinson, Tamarion Watkins, Dallas Villanueva, Kahden Walker.
Coaches: David Bell, Tony Priscaro, Buster Howard and Antonn Thorne.