It's not that Clover quarterback Matt Endicott can't throw. Sure, he hardly ever has to, considering the Blue Eagles' running game is so powerful.
But Endicott can throw just fine -- and Rock Hill found out the hard way.
Endicott hit Chris Lindsay with a 33-yard strike late in the fourth quarter, then the QB took in a fourth-and-goal 1-yard touchdown three plays later Friday, icing a 14-3 win over Rock Hill. The Blue Eagles (6-1, 2-1 Region 3-AAAA), stymied by a terrific defensive effort from the Bearcats, took advantage of Rock Hill's mistakes and won their second straight hardball game.
"You know, I hear people telling me all the time I can't throw the ball," said Endicott, who finished 6-of-10 for 58 yards. "But I don't know one of our receivers who can't catch the ball."
Endicott's stats weren't gaudy, but he kept his poise and didn't throw the ball away. The rushing game, deprived of the injured Chris Douglas but sporting several other horses from Clover's multi-headed stable, wasn't as effective as usual, so Endicott's arm was forced into service.
His biggest play was in the fourth, the Eagles trying to make a 10-3 lead last. Facing third-and-12 from Rock Hill's 35-yard-line, still plenty of time for the Bearcats to rally, Endicott stepped up.
He gunned a throw and Lindsay caught it in stride. He was wrapped at the 2 and Rock Hill set up for its last stand.
The Bearcats forced a fourth-and-goal by stuffing the run but following a timeout, Clover vetoed a field goal and went for the backbreaker. Endicott huddled behind his line, called his own number and jammed his head forward for the necessary yard.
"Two weeks ago at Northwestern," Endicott said, "we didn't get that sneak. We all stepped up tonight. I credit each of my linemen."
The touchdown decided a miserable night for the Bearcats (3-4, 0-2), who threw for 188 yards but continuously shot themselves in the foot. Every time Rock Hill was in position for a big play, something incredibly bad happened.
"They made plays we didn't make," coach Joe Montgomery said. "But we were in position. Our kids played hard."
Montgomery wasn't just trying to soothe a tough loss. Quarterbacks Johnathan Meeks and JuJuan Crockett revived the passing game after Clover stuffed the run, and the Bearcats' defense was doing more than its share. But Rock Hill was undone by a few too many mistakes.
Trying to tie the score at 7 just before halftime, Meeks drove the Bearcats downfield on the strength of 20- and 33-yard passes to Mario McCullough. But with only 46 seconds to go before the bell, Meeks hit McCullough in the numbers in the end zone ... and McCullough dropped it.
Rock Hill settled for a field goal and came out for the second half, but things were no different. A toss to Jeff Richardson was juggled enough for Clover to snatch it away for an interception; a fade from Meeks to McCullough in the end zone was snared by the Eagles' Montae Monroe; and just before Clover scored the final touchdown, another drive shorted out.
Meeks pushed the Bearcats to Clover's 16 before three straight plays earned a loss of 9 yards. Brandon Berger came on for a 42-yard field goal, seeking to make the score 7-6, and missed wide left.
"We knew we couldn't handle them up front," Montgomery said. "We didn't put ourself in position to make enough plays."
Clover clicked enough to spring Ricky Moore for a 33-yard touchdown run, and ended with 210 rushing yards. The gamble to go for it instead of kick worked out, and the Eagles got another win.
"Our kids felt like we could get it," coach Jet Turner said. "And Matt has thrown the ball effectively all year. He's just what you want in a senior leader."