Back in 2005, principal Al Leonard was searching for a football coach. The objective, he said, was to hire the person who could come in and make the program competitive right away.
He chose Bobby Carroll, a long-time assistant at Northwestern who had been the defensive coordinator for one of Class AAAA's powerhouse teams. People should be standing in line asking Leonard to choose their lottery numbers.
The first season South Pointe had only junior varsity and 9th-grade teams because the student body consisted of freshmen and sophomore classes. Carroll and his staff made a decision after looking over the talent they had been dealt: Keep all the 9th-graders together and prepare for the future.
It was a good move, one that shot the Stallions to the top tier in Class AAAA football. They progressed each season, and when that first class of 9th-graders became seniors in 2008, South Pointe went 15-0 and won the Class AAAA Division II state championship.
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The Stallions had arrived, competing with an enrollment never more than 1,470 students, Carroll said, which is well below the approximate 1,650 that is the cutoff for teams in the state's top classification.
Last year, South Pointe was 10-4, and missed returning to the state championship with a loss to Northwestern in the semifinals.
There was hope that some day an all-county region would be formed and that the three Rock Hill schools would stay together. That won't happen at least for two more years. The South Carolina High School League's latest realignment moved the Stallions down to Class AAA. Fort Mill, Nation Ford and York also moved down and will join Chester and Fairfield Central to form Region 4-AAA.
It was a move neither Carroll nor South Pointe's administration wanted. There was a request made to stay up, but it was not accepted by the SCHSL, and Leonard elected not to appeal.
"When I took this job, it was projected we would have 1,800 students in five years,'' Carroll said. "But we have never had the numbers required to play in Class AAAA. But we have dedicated athletes who work hard and we are to the point to where we can compete no matter who we play.
"In football, what counts is what happens on that green grass between those white lines. We can't control attendance and we can't draw the lines to get more students. It's up to our school district to even it out.''
Carroll said his goals have been to bring national recognition to his school, his players and the Rock Hill community. He gets an A on his report card.
The state championship team included seniors Stephon Gilmore and DeVonte Holloman, who played in South Carolina's secondary last year as freshmen. Gilmore goes into his sophomore season regarded as one of the top players in the entire SEC, and is an All-America candidate.
This year's Stallions team features three Division I candidates and one, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, is ranked the No. 1 overall player in the nation by most scouting services.
Linebacker Gerald Dixon is also drawing heavy interest. So is kicker Landon Ard.
"I thought when Stephon was a senior we'd never have as many college coaches come through here as we did that year,'' Carroll said. "But we've had 91 coaches come by to see our top players and all it does is help our other kids get seen.''
Getting seen is not going to be a problem. Although the Stallions will play a Class AAA region schedule, Carroll's team will play non-region games against these Class AAAA schools: Northwestern, Charlotte Independence, Rock Hill and Spartanburg. Carroll said he searched the state for a 10th game and had no takers. So the Stallions settled on the AFC Rangers, a home-school team from the Charlotte area for the season opener on Aug. 20.
South Pointe plays rival Northwestern at 4 p.m. on Aug. 28 at District Three Stadium in a game televised nationally by ESPNU. It's part of a doubleheader that has Byrnes playing Hoover, Ala., at noon on ESPN.
Clowney, Dixon and Ard said moving down was not a problem because except for the Rangers, Spartanburg and Chester, the Stallions have played the other seven teams on their schedule.
"I'm just going out there and play football like I do every Friday night,'' Clowney said. "That's what I do. The personal recognition is nice, but I don't pay any attention to all that publicity. I'm just getting ready for another season like I always do.''
Clowney is a monster. He is 6feet 6 inches tall and weighs 250 pounds. He runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds and at times he'll play receiver. Clowney had 144 tackles and 24 sacks last season.
"I'm starting to cut my college list down, but that's not first on my mind,'' he said. "Right now it's down to South Carolina, Alabama, Florida State, LSU, Miami and Clemson. We'll see.''
Dixon is the son of former South Carolina and NFL linebacker Gerald Dixon Sr., an assistant coach at Rock Hill High, and is in talks with South Carolina, Alabama, Texas Tech, Wake Forest and Auburn. He's 6 feet 3 inches tall and 245 pounds.
"I'm excited about the start of the season and I'm looking forward to playing Northwestern on national TV,'' he said. "We want to get there first so we will be the first team ever from Rock Hill on national TV.
"We always look forward to each season and it doesn't matter to us who we play. We'll approach each game the same as we always have. I believe our schedule is tougher than most for the Class AAAA teams, even though we moved down (to Class AAA).''
Ard followed up last year as the replacement for Stallions' record-setting kicker Graham Tuttle. All he did was nail 62-of-66 extra points, 8-of-11 field goals, including a longest of 48 yards, and kicked off 55 times into the end zone for touchbacks.
He had caught the eyes of Kentucky and Wake Forest, and is among the Southeast's top kickers heading into the 2010 season.
"It doesn't matter who we play, what region we're in or what class,'' Ard said. "Football is football and your goal is still to score more points than the other team and win.
"We are still playing some very talented teams; maybe the toughest schedule since I've been here. It's up to us to go out and play hard, then we'll worry about college.''
NOTES: Carroll announced that former offensive line coach Rick Martin has been promoted to offensive coordinator. He replaces Greg Taylor, who left to coach at Olympic High School in Charlotte.
OHIO STATE: The Stallions finally have the uniforms they have been longing for since the school opened in 2005. They will look very similar to Ohio State this season in their primary colors of red, white and black.
They also have a new logo, which will be on the coaching shirts. It's "South Pointe'' written in the style of "Ohio State.''
"We want to thank our booster club for helping us with the new uniforms,'' Carroll said. "Those folks work hard and we couldn't have sports without them.''