The South Pointe Stallions look more than ready for national television.
The Stallions play Saturday on ESPNU against rival Northwestern. The team found out Friday they'll play Spartanburg on ESPN2 in September.
That didn't serve as a distraction in a 51-6 blowout of the AFC Rangers (Charlotte) at District Three South Stadium on Friday. South Pointe (1-0) scored three defensive TDs and forced four turnovers in building a 51-0 halftime lead.
"Getting to play on ESPN twice is a testament to our kids and the program we've built here over the last five years," South Pointe coach Bobby Carroll said. "But our kids understand there's a mountain to climb with the schedule we're up against."
South Pointe senior Jadeveon Clowney, the top recruit in the country according to Rivals.com and ESPN.com, played the part of big-time playmaker. He provided a series of YouTube-worthy plays in the first half.
Clowney smacked AFC running back Justin Borkowski for a three-yard loss to force the second three-and-out in the first quarter. Senior running back Diami Gilmore cashed in with a 16-yard touchdown and a 10-0 lead one play later.
The Rangers (0-1) put together two first downs on their next possession, but a bad snap went through AFC quarterback Danny Helms' legs on a third-and-8. Before Helms turned around, Clowney had already scooped up the ball and was halfway down the right sideline for a 43-yard touchdown return. South Pointe led 17-0 after one quarter.
"We came out flat in the jamborees last week," Clowney said. "We wanted to come out hard and come out hitting, and we were able to set the tone with defense."
The Stallions erupted for 34 points in the second quarter. Quarterback Ta Hicklin started the onslaught with a 93-yard connection to a wide-open Montay Crockett with 10:20 left in the half.
Junior Corey Neely added punt returns of 48 and 47 yards, respectively, which set up touchdown runs by JaRyan Jennings and Ta Hicklin. On the first return, Neely followed Clowney, who erased AFC punter K.P. Hicks with a monster peel-back block.
"I could see a lot of field," Neely said. "I was able to cut back (from the block), but couldn't quite get in the end zone. It set up good field position for the offense."
South Pointe closed the quarter with consecutive interception returns for touchdowns. Devin Pearson returned his second interception of the half 33 yards for a score, and LaKeenan Scruggs added a 51-yard "pick six" on the last play of the first half.
Despite the impressive first half, Carroll found room for improvement. The Stallions committed 10 penalties for 80 yards in the first half.
"We'll have off-sides penalties and defensive holdings in the first game," Carroll said. "What we don't want are the personal fouls, and we had a few of those tonight. We'll fix that."
The teams played with a running clock in the second half, and South Pointe played mostly reserves. Carroll said he was pleased to get every player in the game, even if that meant losing the shutout in the final seconds on a 16-yard touchdown run by AFC's Jerry Young.
Now the Stallions meet Northwestern at 4 p.m. Saturday at District Three Stadium. The Trojans defeated the Stallions 24-6 in last year's Class AAAA state semifinal.
For his part, Carroll is ready to play the underdog card.
"Northwestern is a great program, and we have a lot of respect for them," Carroll said. "It used to be us vs. them in AAAA. We're in AAA now, so this is for bragging rights more than anything."
SOUTH POINTE 51
AFC RANGERS 6
SP -- Landon Ard 34 FG, 5:09
SP -- Diami Gilmore 16 run (Ard kick), 3:49
SP -- Jadeveon Clowney 43 fumble return (Ard kick),
SP -- Montay Crockett 93 pass from Ta Hicklin (kick failed)
SP -- JaRyan Jenings 6 run (Ard kick), 8:57
SP -- Hicklin 8 run (Ard kick), 5:48
SP -- Devin Pearson 33 interception return (Ard kick), 4:53
SP -- LaKeenan Scruggs 51 interception return (Ard kick), 0:00
AFC -- Jerry Young 16 run, conversion failed
RUSHING -- AFC: Darius Cunningham 7-48, Aaron Alexander 1-25, Tobias Wells 8-22, Young 1-16, Justin Borkowski 7-8, Marcus Adams 1-3, Danny Helms 7-(-25). SP: Dominique Fergerson 7-25, Hicklin 3-24, Gilmore 2-21, Garrick Mackey 2-12, Jennings 3-8, JaColvin McCoy 1-4, Brandan Barber 2-0, Crockett 2-0, Yard 3-(-8).
PASSING -- AFC: Danny Helms 5-17-0, 56 yards. SP: Hicklin 1-2-0, 93 yards; Yard 0-1-0.
RECEIVING -- AFC: Franklin Wright 2-28, Marcus Adams 2-27, Wells 1-1. SP: Crockett 1-93.
RECORDS -- AFC Rangers 0-1, South Pointe 1-0