YORK -- There is only one word needed to get the York Cougars ready for Friday's football game -- "Clover".
This has been a disappointing season by all accounts for coach John Barrett and his team. They have dropped five straight games and are 3-7, 1-4 in Region 3-AAAA.
All that can be forgotten and forgiven with a win at Clover on Friday.
"To me, all the games are important, but this is the one the community targets," Barrett said from his office Wednesday before practice. "We've worked hard this year but it has been very disappointing."
York will miss the playoffs for the first time in Barrett's recollection. He's been involved with the program for 11 years.
"This is always an important game for us. It adds incentive this year since this is our playoffs," Barrett said. "Win or lose, Monday we'll put all the equipment away."
The Cougars have missed the leadership of last year's crop of seniors. Tyrone Love, Marty Markett and Wayne Johnson led that team to a run at the region title in their first season in Class AAAA.
This year's defense has been porous at times while the offense has shown the ability to score in bunches, like when York put up 35 points against Hartsville. Unfortunately, the Cougars gave up 69.
A bright spot has been the offensive line. Barrett and OL coach Joey Moore have been able to meld together a dependable group. They have worked through injuries and have players willing to be versatile.
Brian Hough, a 6-foot-2, 245-pound junior, is a great example of versatility. He started the season at right tackle, backed up Jamie Smith at right guard, played center and will start Friday at left guard.
"Brian has done real well," Barrett said. "He came in to snap when Zach (Hershberger) was out with a back injury."
Hershberger is the anchor of the offensive line and also its smallest member. He pushes his hair into a spiked mohawk and is listed at 5-9, 185 on the roster. He says he's now closer to 170 pounds.
"I haven't gone against a guy smaller than me this year," Hershberger said. "But it is best for the team for me to play this position."
Barrett said he and his coaches had a hard time finding the right position for him.
"We tried him at fullback and a few other places. He's just one you need to have on the field," Barrett said. "He goes real hard on every play. He'll strike you with all he's got."
Hershberger, along with Corey Kenneth and David Roger, are the senior offensive linemen. They played against Clover last year when the game had region championship implications for both sides.
Although York's season will end Friday, the practices have been every bit as intense leading up to this game as any other year.
Junior tight end Taylor McSwain said this week has had the hardest and best practices of the year.
"We'll play as hard as we ever have Friday night," he said.
The group mostly agreed York's best game this year was against Chester. York won 27-12 and it came on the heels of the 69-35 loss to Hartsville.
The offensive line played well and allowed running back Adriane Kirkpatrick to rush for 137 yards on 18 carries.
The Cougars were able to regroup. They were able to win.
That's the type of game York would like to play at Clover.
"This has been a good group to work with," Barrett said. "Coach Moore has been here 10 years and he's as good as it gets when it comes to OL coaches.
"We've tinkered with zone-blocking this year. A majority of teams from pro, college and high school are going to it. We, as coaches, are learning it along with the kids. It doesn't happen in one season so we mix in our scheme-blocking also."
Barrett said the OL should continue to be a strength next year and beyond.
"We've been real pleased with our JV lineman this year. We have some ninth-graders that can help us next year if they work hard in the offseason," Barrett said. "That shouldn't be a problem. For the most part, offensive linemen are the hardest workers on the team."
So what does Barrett need to do to motivate his team for Friday?
Tight end Brandon Martin summed it up simply.
"We're ready. It's Clover."