The York Cougars have one of the biggest, most talented quarterbacks this area has seen. They have a 10th grade emerging star whose highlights are filling up Friday night sportscasts, as well as a running back who switched positions three weeks ago and has run for nearly 300 yards in the three games since.
And Bobby Carroll’s program was just voted No. 1 in the state’s 4A rankings released Tuesday, the first time in the school’s history.
Naturally, the Cougars are next up on Rock Hill’s schedule.
Whenever it’s looked like Bubba Pittman’s Bearcats (3-2) are turning a corner this season, another significant road-block pops up. After thumping Chester three weeks ago, Rock Hill hosted a sizzling Dorman team – now ranked No. 2 in the state – and scrapped for three quarters before falling 35-14. Last week, Rock Hill went on the road and scored one of its best wins in several years, whipping Sumter 41-14. And now, York (5-0) is on the menu Friday in both team’s Region 3-4A opener.
“York is a powerhouse offensively,” said Pittman. “They’re gonna get their points, they’re gonna get their yards; we’re gonna try our best to slow them down.”
The Bearcats are 0-2 at District Three Stadium this season, the three wins coming on the road at Blythewood, Chester and Sumter. The last of those road wins has boosted the confidence of a young defense with just three senior starters. Rock Hill defensive coordinator Mike Biddix was heartened by his team’s defensive shutout of the Gamecocks – Sumter’s 14 points came from a fumble scoop-and-score and a special teams touchdown. Biddix was even happier to see the effort against one of the state’s better teams.
“We’ve got to play really good against good people,” he said Thursday. “That was big for us. I think they were ranked eighth in the state and we go down there and we did shut them out. I thought we did as well as we’ve done anywhere.”
The Rock Hill defense confronts its largest challenge of the season Friday in the form of York’s 6-foot-4, 250-pound senior quarterback Deshaw Andrews. Biddix has been coaching for 37 years. He compared Andrews’ height to former Northwestern quarterbacks Mason Rudolph and Justin Worley, but neither of them were as thick as the Cougars QB. Biddix also remembered a Gaffney quarterback named Bradshaw Littlejohn, who was big enough to play linebacker at Michigan State.
Andrews “throws the ball as good as any of them,” Biddix said. “He’s got a quick release and he throws it where they can catch it and you can’t get to it. A lot of it is that Air Raid stuff. It’s reads, 1-2-3 reads and if the one read’s not there, he checks down really quick and gets rid of the ball. I’ve not seen anybody sack him.”
Offensively, Rock Hill could have poured some more points on the Gamecocks last week. The Bearcats turned the ball over in Sumter’s red zone twice in the opening two drives of the game. Rock Hill can’t be so generous against York.
Since fumbling the ball away four times in the season-opening win against Sumter, York has only turned the ball over twice in the four games since. Andrews has thrown for over 1,400 yards and 13 touchdowns, but he has yet to toss an interception in 157 pass attempts. If Rock Hill gives the ball to York, the Cougars probably won’t give it back.
Biddix pointed out one of his defensive unit’s primary focuses this week: limiting “YAC,” or “yards after the catch.” In senior Kyron Schrouder (46 catches for 594 yards and seven touchdowns) and sophomore Wally Wilmore (31 catches for 426 yards and four touchdowns), the Cougars have two of the slickest wideouts in the area.
“They’re gonna throw and catch the ball because they work at it so hard,” said Biddix. “But, we don’t want any yardage after the catch, and I think that’s the thing, make them take another snap.”
Rock Hill’s stoppers begin every practice with a four-station tackling circuit, and they see the Air Raid offense every day in practice. But as invaluable as those reps are, that dominant performance at Sumter last Friday is even more precious mentally.
“Our kids are getting better. They’re getting a lot more confidence,” said Biddix. “We’re trying to keep it as simple as we can so they can do the same thing over and over and over, and get better at what they’re doing.”
Before last Friday, Rock Hill had not beaten a team with a winning record since an 8-7 win over Ridge View in 2011. Asked if he felt the Bearcats were headed in the right direction as they embark on region play, Pittman said “I hope so. I’ve said all along, we’ve got great kids with good character and they want to be good, and when we correct the mistakes and take care of ourselves, we usually play pretty good. So we’ve just got to keep taking care of us and keep fighting every week.”