High School Sports

December 24, 2008

No area in the state dominated S.C. prep football like the Herald area in 2008

It's a story that's been told over and over, locally and throughout the state.

Some tell is with pride. Others tell it in a way that sheds a negative light on just how good high school football in Rock Hill and the surrounding area was this season.

Those looking in this direction with a slanted eye and with their head tilted forward, shame, shame on you.

On all accounts, the 2008 season was the best-ever in this part of the state and it was one that other areas may never match no matter how hard they try.

Five teams within a 25-mile radius of Rock Hill made it to the state semifinals. Four were in Class AAAA, three in Rock Hill, one in Lancaster, and the semifinalist was Chester in Class AAA.

Three advanced to title games at Clemson.

South Pointe, in just its third season of varsity football, beat rival Northwestern 35-14 in the Division II state championship game, with history being made on several fronts.

The match-up was the first ever for a state title between two Rock Hill teams. It was also South Pointe's first trip to the championship game and the first undefeated season for any Stallions' sport team.

Chester made it back to the championship for the second straight time -- under a different head coach -- and lost again, this time 31-21 to Myrtle Beach.

Rock Hill made it to the Division I semifinals, but lost to Sumter. Lancaster made it to the Division II semifinals, where the Bruins lost to Northwestern.

And there was a lot of bragging, and deservedly so, that Rock Hill was becoming Football City, USA. Why not?

Northwestern, Rock Hill and South Pointe ended up with a combined 39-5 record and all three finished in the state's top 10. The only team to beat one of the three schools was Sumter, which lost to Byres in the Division I state championship game.

Need more? There's plenty to substantiate the evidence.

Chester was 11-4, Lancaster 10-4 and Clover 9-4. That's six of 12 teams in the coverage area that has at least nine wins and a combined record of 69-14.


You have to have good players to have good teams. Ask any coach. The state's two all-star games took 16 area players. Ten played in the North-South game, six in the Shrine Bowl.

Northwestern's Hakeem Adams was named Defensive MVP at the North-South. South Pointe's Stephon Gilmore was named South Carolina's Offensive MVP in the Shrine Bowl after leading his team to a come-from-behind 24-16 victory after trailing 16-3 at the half.

A little more? Sure.

There were eight finalists for this year's S.C. Mr. Football award. The list included Gilmore and Nothwestern's Jarrett Neely. Gilmore won, a habit that is becoming a trend off and on the field.

There, you have it. Case rested.

But there was and is controversy. South Pointe won its region and was 15-0. Byrnes was second in its region and was 14-1. The Rebels avenged their loss to Dorman on the way to the state championship.

But when the final poll was voted on, Byrnes was No. 1 by a point over South Pointe.

The problem is Class AAAA has two state championships and there is not an open weekend to play an extra game to determine on the field which team is best. Unless drastic changes are made to the playoff system, the arguments will continue to rage on as to which winner in the two Class AAAA games is the true No. 1.

And there was the change in sites for the state championship games. Clemson approached the state legislature about holding the games there and the request was granted. True, the folks in Tigertown rolled out the red carpet, no fee to park or use Memorial Stadium.

But fans had grown use to driving to a central location, Columbia's Williams-Brice Stadium, and some didn't bother to drive to the other side of the state to support their team. Ticket sales were down by 10,000.

Was it fair to ask fans to drive to Clemson from Myrtle Beach and Dillon, and even Pageland. And some local fans wanted the league to move the South Pointe and Northwestern game back home to District Three Stadium, not feasible because of the contract with Clemson and not enough seating at District Three.

And 2008 was the year of the rug. Rock Hill and Northwestern played for the first time on artificial turf at District Three, as did Myrtle Beach at Doug Shaw Stadium, home of the North-South game. Expect other schools to roll out the rugs in the near future.

So now we get to our 2008 Herald All-Area Teams.

To avoid and confusion, the players of the year are the best of the area's players and therefore not listed on the offensive or defensive teams. The players of the year and coach of the year were voted on by the area coaches.

Gilmore is the Class AAAA Player of the Year, Chester's Tony McNeal the Class AAA Player of the Year, and Lewisville's Isaiah Johnson the Class A Player of the Year.

Neely was voted Offensive Player of the Year, South Pointe's Pete Roseboro Defensive Player of the Year, and South Pointe's Bobby Carroll is the Coach of the Year.

Rather than go though each individual player, flip over to 6C and check out the team. Pay attention to the statistics and size of the players. You'll be impressed.

To you seniors about to go to college or out in the world, we salute you. You were honestly a great group to work with and thanks for letting us share your ups and downs.

And to all of you coming back, the entire state is watching. Let's do it again.

Merry Christmas.

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