Scott Robinson Jr., admitted he didn’t know it was illegal to hurdle opposing tacklers in high school football.
The South Pointe junior discovered that rule last Friday in the Stallions’ third round playoff win over Belton-Honea Path. He took a fourth quarter pass and as the approaching Bear defender lowered his shoulder for impending contact, hopped over him en route to an 8-yard gain. The play was flagged and the Stallions backed up, but it was the faintest of stains on an excellent performance from Robinson Jr., easily his best in a South Pointe varsity uniform.
He caught four passes for 62 yards and two touchdowns, including a 43-yard catch-and-run for six points that helped South Pointe get going after a sluggish first half. Fellow junior Jamari Currence showed up too. He nabbed an interception, his seventh of the season.
Much was expected from the duo that lingered in the background the last two seasons but finally emerged on the varsity level this season for Strait Herron’s team.
“(Herron) knew we were gonna be able to carry the team one day,” Currence said Tuesday. “So just stick to the process and that’s what we did.”
In the shadows
Other juniors at South Pointe have been in the limelight much longer.
Quarterback Derion Kendrick burst on the scene as a ninth grader, starting in the Stallions’ secondary during their 2014 playoff run to the 3A state title and raking in scholarship offers from the biggest programs in college football. Defensive end Eli Adams made his presence felt the following season, racking up 36 tackles-for-loss and an offer from the Gamecocks. And even Steven Gilmore Jr., has an offer from South Carolina as well despite the same amount of varsity experience as Robinson Jr., and Currence.
It wasn’t easy to stay patient while scholarship offers flew in all around them, but Robinson Jr., and Currence did. In an era where players increasingly transfer over playing time squabbles, Herron should feature the pair in a pamphlet handed out at preseason parent meetings. The pamphlet title: “the virtues of remaining patient and taking advantage of an opportunity when it arises.”
“They want to go play college football - which they will - but I don’t think they’re worrying about it anymore,” Herron said.
More patient, more productive
Currence has five interceptions in the last four games, three of those coming against Westwood in the regular season finale. The 6-foot, 165-pounder said he deciphered the RedHawks passing signals early in the game.
He also had a leaping pick last Friday that helped stunt a promising Belton-Honea Path drive in the first half, and got his first scholarship offer this week, from UMass.
“He’s growing,” said Herron. “But the way he works his technique and what he does in the offseason, all that stuff, it’s become second nature to him. That’s his biggest asset; he understands football and playing the corner position.
“He had talent, but he’s fine-tuned a lot of things he needed to.”
The ball is definitely starting to roll now that we’re playing and making plays.
Jamari Currence, on waiting patiently for playing time.
Currence was buried on the varsity bench last season behind cornerbacks Nick McCloud and Chris Smith - who landed at N.C. State and South Carolina, respectively - but took advantage of their presence to get better. McCloud took him under his wing last year, working with him extensively during the offseason.
At the start of 2016 Currence was perhaps a little too fired up. He was over-anticipatory, which led to pass interference penalties or prematurely jumping routes and letting receivers run behind him. But he relaxed with more experience and as South Pointe’s run defense has stiffened up, Currence has gotten more opportunities to make plays in the secondary.
“I’m more patient, so I’m more productive now,” he said.
That key word, patience, has also been critical for Robinson Jr. He played JV last season, not the usual way a future college football player spends his sophomore year. But again, the talent in front of him was immense and the junior has grabbed his chance in their absence. He switched from defensive back to receiver after the Mallard Creek game and has started on that side of the ball ever since.
“That’s helped Scott. He realizes he’s our wide receiver and he’s focused on that and gonna play it well,” said Herron. “He’s like Jamari, a very smart player.”
Currence’s dad, Jay, has been an assistant at South Pointe since 2008, so transferring to a different school was never considered. Robinson Jr., felt the same.
“It’s a brotherhood over here,” he said. “I’ve been playing with these guys since, maybe, third grade. I couldn’t leave these guys.”
Preview: South Aiken (12-1) at South Pointe (12-1)
Last week: South Aiken beat Ridge View 50-17; South Pointe beat Belton-Honea Path 35-7
Last meeting: never played
Winner faces: the winner of Chapin-Hartsville in the 4A state championship game next Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia.
Key players: SAHS - Jr. QB Cody Boynton (147-215 passing for 2,180 yards, 26 TDs, 7 INTs); Jr. RB Chris Roberts (1,629 rushing yards, 19 TDs); Jr. LB D.J. Parker (125 tackles, 13 TFLs); Sr. ATH Tancey Richardson (FBS recruit, Shrine Bowl pick, 6 INTs, 11 total TDs). SPHS - Jr. DL Jalen Pickett-Hicks (97 tackles, 10 TFLs); Sr. OL Alex Lais; Sr. WR Justin Pendergrass (621 receiving yards, 9 TDs); Jr. QB Derion Kendrick (189-298 passing for 2,835 yards, 29 TDs, 9 INTs).
Need to know: There are a lot of similarities between these two teams - very dangerous kick-returners, FBS-level recruits, both plus-21 in turnover margin, and offenses that spread receptions around among a number of different receivers. There is a key difference, though, and it’s experience against high-level competition. Focusing on just 2016, South Aiken’s opponents combined for a 71-81 record; South Pointe’s 13 opponents are 87-62. Last week’s comprehensive win over Ridge View was the Thoroughbreds’ best win of the season, but the Stallions have taken down Northwestern, Mallard Creek, Ridge View and Belton-Honea Path, all highly-ranked or 10-win-plus teams.
Stepping back a bit further, this is South Aiken’s first appearance in the state semifinals since 1991. South Pointe’s latest Upper State final berth is the school’s ninth straight (with one in the Lower State). Experience in big games is a big deal, especially among teenagers at the high school level. South Pointe has won 13 straight games in the postseason - two championships included - and it’s experience should come into play as it goes for a 14th Friday night.