York defensive line coach Zac Snyder and head coach Bobby Carroll used to joke that coaches weren’t necessary when they were at South Pointe, such was the breadth and depth of football talent.
“The only thing you needed was a bus driver,” to get the team to the game, Snyder said earlier this week.
York was not that kind of school. Still, when Carroll took over the Cougar football program in 2011 he immediately began cultivating a situation that has blossomed into the school’s first 4A state championship game appearance Saturday versus Spartanburg.
“He’s got a passion for football, he’s got a passion for winning and he’s got a passion for young people,” said athletic director Steve Boyd. “I think that’s probably the best way to sum him up.”
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York has won at least 10 games each of the four seasons Carroll has been in charge, but the four seasons prior to his arrival all ended with losing records. York had put together eight consecutive winning seasons prior to that, all under former coach Boyd. After the 2010 season, Boyd was eager to return the Cougars to winning ways, if not better.
“We weren’t used to losing, so we didn’t want to continue that for very long,” he said.
Carroll had started the South Pointe program and led it to a state title in 2008, just the school’s third year of varsity pigskin. The Stallions lost in the 2010 3A state final to Myrtle Beach, and Boyd saw a sliver of a chance of attracting Carroll back to his alma mater. York had a brand new, gleaming football stadium, great facilities, was the only school in the district and had the full backing of a the town, unlike Rock Hill with its fan support and funding carved up three ways.
“I thought we just had a lot to offer,” said Boyd, “and I think that appealed to Bobby a lot. I think the biggest thing, was his love of York athletics and the people in this community. That might have been the biggest draw. And I think he wanted to bring pride back to this program and he did that.”
York had another unique draw. South Pointe had beaten York 56-7 during the 2010 season and Carroll joked that he had to find a place to live after the Stallions beat his son Spencer, quarterbacking the Cougars, silly. His wife – and Spencer’s mom – Sherry was less than impressed and told Carroll not to come home. She was probably only 99 percent serious.
By taking the York job, Carroll would have two years to coach his son and the opportunity to lead the high school football program in the town where he grew up.
“We’d done about everything we could do at South Pointe,” Carroll said on Monday. “Just got lucky; the York job came open and instead of driving 12 miles to work, I drive a mile to work, and I’ve got a place to sleep.”
One of Carroll’s first moves was to assemble a coaching staff. He brought Snyder, who trained Jadeveon Clowney and Gerald Dixon, among others at South Pointe, as well as several other coaches that had been with him or played for him at Northwestern and South Pointe. Boyd was able to work it out so that Carroll could add assistant coaching positions, including a strength and conditioning coach.
“He came here and brought the tradition of Northwestern and South Pointe. We gave the kids a lot of confidence; I think we taught them a lot also, taught them how to win,” said Shawn Woodard, who played for Carroll at Northwestern in the 1990s, and joined a York staff in 2011 that included other former Northwestern assistants David Prince and Carl Startsman. “They were guys that were used to winning and they brought that attitude to the program.”
That proved crucial in helping the coaching staff dispel the common belief in the area that York didn’t have athletes. The key to tapping the potential was an acronym: S.A.T.K.R. That stands for stance, alignment, technique, keys and responsibility, the things that every position coach at York hones in on at the beginning of each practice.
“You can watch NFL games and see where the defense is not lined up right and it cost them major yards on a play,” said Snyder, who also played under Carroll at Northwestern in the late 1990s. “If you drill that into a kid, knowing where to be and what to do, even a less talented player can execute in a way that you want. Coach Carroll has taken that everywhere he’s gone and it’s worked out pretty well so far.”
Carroll’s attention to S.A.T.K.R. has impacted York’s players, helping school record numbers of them into the college football ranks during his four years.
“He just makes sure we’re focused on our craft and on the stuff we’ve got to do during the game,” said senior Daurice Simpson, who will represent York in the Shrine Bowl in two weeks.
Carroll started York Touchdown Club within two years of taking over, with the goal of provided funding solely for the football team. He also went to work rounding up any potential football players already at the school.
“He got in the hallways, talked to the kids,” said Boyd. “He went to the middle school level and talked to those kids. I think the biggest thing is the PR work. Getting out there and talking to kids and getting them out to play football.”
York reached the Upper State finals in Carroll’s first year, ironically losing to South Pointe. The Stallions and Northwestern knocked the Cougars out the last three seasons, before this year’s breakthrough.
The community, football-fevered, has relished York’s Carroll-led success. Boyd said that the town was packing the stadium even during the three losing seasons prior to Carroll’s arrival, a testament to its unwavering support.
“We’re very fortunate to have a one-school community still,” he said. “Everything revolves around our school and our churches.”
It’s a safe bet that nearly every single resident of York able to make the trip down to Columbia Saturday will do so. They’ll see the culmination of Carroll’s grand plans to get his alma mater into the big-time. It definitely took more than a bus driver.
“Those (South Pointe) kids were football-ready,” said Snyder. “It’s very rewarding for us to go to this game here, not because the kids are unable – clearly they are – but for all the people that said when we came here that we were crazy for leaving the school that had the level of talent South Pointe had and going to a school that maybe didn’t always have the talent. People said, ‘now you’re gonna find out if y’all are any good at your jobs.’ ”
That question has been firmly answered.