Gut-check time came sooner than South Pointe football coach Bobby Carroll had expected, in the Stallions 17-7 road win Friday night against Fairfield Central.
The game featured the Stallions, ranked No. 1 in Class AAA, against the Griffins, who came in 7-0 and ranked No. 3.
Fairfield Central took the opening kickoff and immediately began launching a powerful offensive attack with a pair of first downs. What happened next was a preview of what was to come; Carroll called it a win, but a sloppy game.
On the Griffins' sixth play from scrimmage, quarterback Danny Miller fired a pass to the midfield stripe. South Pointe's Jacquese Jones stepped in front of the ball for the interception and returned it to the Griffins' 48.
Little did Carroll or Fairfield Central coach Reggie Kennedy have a clue that it was the beginning of a game that would be filled with turnovers and missed opportunities. And Carroll had no idea at the time that on his team's first series, he would end up gambling and winning twice.
The Stallions stalled at the Griffins' 39, where they faced a fourth and 1. Carroll's first big decision was answered when he put all-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney in the game. Quarterback Tay Hicklin handed off to Clowney, who blasted through the middle for three yards and a Stallions first down.
Later on the same drive, facing a fourth and 4 from the 32, Corey Neely took a pitch around the left side and rambled 11 yards for a first down at the 19.
Again, Clowney got the call and showed why he is so highly regarded as an athlete. He blasted over right tackle, Griffins clinging to him, but shook free and raced to the endzone for the game's first score. It would be the only touchdown of the opening half and the Stallions led 7-0 after Landon Ard came on and boomed the extra point through the uprights.
The remainder of the first half became a defensive standoff in which the Stallions had their first two of five fumbles that changed hands.
"Fairfield Central has a good team and they really played hard and got after us," Carroll said. "This was a tough, but sloppy ball game for us. To give up four fumbles and still win against a team this good is a tribute to how well our defense played."
On South Pointe's fifth and final possession of the half, Carroll called on Clowney again. The 6-foot-5, 255 pound senior carried three straight times for 31 yards to the Griffins' 20.
But the Stallions didn't come away unscathed.
Late in the half, Hicklin became involved in a mix-up with a Fairfield Central player on the Stallions' sideline. It appeared at first the call could be a late hit on Hicklin out of bounds. The yellow flags were flying and when the fray had ended, South Pointe was hit with a personal foul penalty and Hicklin was thrown out of the game.
Backup quarterback Devin Pearson, a starter in the secondary, took over and played the second half.
A player removed from a game must sit out the next unless an appeal is made to the South Carolina High School League that he be allowed to play. The League studies reports from the officials and any film or video from an incident that results in ejection. If an appeal is upheld, said player can participate the following week.
SOUTH POINTE 17
FAIRFIELD CENTRAL 7
SP -- Jadeveon Clowney 19 run (Landon Ard kick)
SP -- Ard 33 field goal
FC -- Jimmy Walker 6 run (Kevin Workman kick)
SP -- Devin Pearson 25 pass to Montay Crockett (Ard kick)
RUSHING - South Pointe: Malik Jamerson 8-26, Jalen Massey 2-0, Clowney 8-61, Tay Hicklin 7-9, JaRyan Jennings 1-8, Corey Neely 1-11, Crockett 3-41, Pearson 8-18. Fairfield: Walker 14-92, Danny Miller 11-11, Damian Bell 4-52.
PASSING - South Pointe: Hicklin 1-2-9-0, Pearson 3-3-95 -0. Fairfield: Miller 10-22-57-1.
RECEIVING - South Pointe: Jennings 1-9, Tay Smith 1-47, Crockett 2-48. Fairfield: Dana Macklin 2-31, Chris Alston 4-11, Walker 4-15.
RECORDS: South Pointe 7-1, 3-0; Fairfield Central 7-1, 2-1