In the end, Rock Hill’s valiant comeback was blunted by its bullet-riddled feet.
The Bearcats couldn’t shake their special teams mistakes, or five turnovers, in Friday night’s 28-20 loss to rivals South Pointe.
Bubba Pittman’s crew came into the game on a high after thumping Blythewood 40-6 to open the season, but there would be no win over the Stallions Friday at District Three Stadium. South Pointe, as ever, was ruthlessly opportune with the advantages cast its way.
“Turnovers were the difference,” said South Pointe coach Strait Herron, who still hasn’t lost to the Bearcats in five games as a head coach. “We told them there would be three parts: you’ve got to be physical, you’ve got to make less mistakes and you’ve got to play with heart. We got the turnovers, but at the same time, we only played great football for about a quarter and a half and then fizzled.”
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The Bearcats shipped South Pointe a 21-0 first quarter lead, but scratched their way back into the contest with 14 unanswered before the half. The hosts had a chance to tie the game in the third quarter but the Stallions came up with another key special teams contribution, blocking the extra point after Deshaun McFadden’s touchdown to leave the score 21-20.
Greg Ruff, the junior quarterback who relieved injured South Pointe starter Zaylin Burris during the game’s first drive, ran a perfect zone read fake on 4th and 3 at the Rock Hill 19, before flicking a touch pass into the arms of Quay Brown for the six points. Crucially, B.T. Potter drilled the extra point to make it 28-20 with just over 2 minutes left.
Rock Hill got the ball back, but Brandon Croutch was stopped short on 4th and 3 and the Stallions won their fifth straight in the rivalry.
“It’s always difficult trying to overcome turnovers, especially when it’s five of them,” said Pittman. “Our defense played great, but we just turned the ball over, offensively and special teams.”
Rock Hill got off to the worst possible start when Jason Hutchens’ high and short game-opening kickoff hit a Bearcat right in the shoulder pad as he waved for a fair catch. Stallion Voshon St. Hill recovered and South Pointe took advantage shortly thereafter, Ruff firing a 6-yard dart to Shaheem Sanders to make it 7-0, after the PAT, with barely 2 minutes elapsed.
A bad start worsened when Rock Hill quarterback Cameron McKinney tried to force a pass toward the South Pointe sideline and Stallion interception-maestro Marveon Mobley stepped in front, tapped his toes and completed the pick, his first of this season after eight interceptions last fall.
“They made a lot of key plays,” said Ruff, who was 21 of 28 for 210 yards, three touchdowns and just one interception. “That really took a lot of pressure off my back.”
Herron’s team was again ruthless, Ruff bombing a 44-yard rainbow into the arms of junior receiver Lorenzo Wells, who had gotten behind his defender for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead with 5 minutes left in the first quarter.
South Pointe forced a Rock Hill three-and-out and put together an imperial march to another seven points. Ruff seemed to throw or run at the right moments, finding a stable of different receivers during a 6-minute drive. Inside the Bearcats’ 10, Frankie Martinez punched in from 5 yards to put the visitors up three scores with about 10 minutes left.
The pendulum roared back the other way just as fast.
With 5 minutes, 21 seconds left in the first half, Ruff’s pass skimmed off the fingers of a Stallion receiver and Donnell Williams took the interception all the way to the South Pointe 6-yard line. McKinney hit Antonio Hardy on a 5-yard slant to make it 21-7, and it was 21-14 four minutes later after a South Pointe fumble. The Stallion defense should’ve been off the field but a holding call extended the drive and Rock Hill’s Dachon Witherspoon smashed in from less than a yard away to cut it to a one-score game.
“I’m proud of the kids for fighting,” said Pittman. “No doubt, they’ve got the heart. They want to win, they’re hungry to win, and they wanted that one really bad. We’ve just got to eliminate mistakes; we’ve got to fix us.”