South Pointe will very likely begin the 2014 football season ranked in the top two or three teams in 3A, the Stallions’ new classification.
That worries coach Strait Herron.
“I keep telling these guys, the competition does not change,” he said. “In the region we’re gonna play in, those are some really good football teams. And once you get to the playoffs, you better be able to play like a 4A football team. We’ve got to keep them from getting that complacency, the big head.”
South Pointe won the 2011 3A state championship, but lost to Myrtle Beach in the 2010 championship. That team included, among many notables, Gerald Dixon and Jadeveon Clowney, harassing opponents like the neighborhood bullies. If those Stallions could end the year without a ring, the 2014 crew certainly could too.
The Stallions will have their work cut out this fall, especially with a challenging non-region schedule that includes their three biggest local rivals, Rock Hill, Northwestern and York, as well as 4A Charlotte school, Vance.
Lancaster also slides down to 3A, and, with new coach Bobby Collins at the helm, will also hope to make the adjustment smoothly. The Bruins, and South Pointe, join Chester, Union, Clinton and Broome in a revamped Region 3-3A.
Coach: Strait Herron, 5th year
Last year: 11-3 overall, 6-1 in Region 3-4A, lost to Stratford in 4A-Division II Lower State championship game
Starters returning: 5 offense, 6 defense
Key departures: DL Zeek Rodney, DE Jontae Henry, DL Nick Adams, DE Tay Robinson-Locke, WR Anthony Johnson, WR Kyle Brandt, RB Josh Brice, LB Josh Massey, DB Eric Westbrook, DE Matt Newman.
Key returning: The South Pointe talent cupboard is never bare. The Stallions bring back rising junior quarterback Zaylin Burris, rising junior defensive back Chris Smith, and rising senior linebacker Marveon Mobley, all big-time college prospects. Mobley, who had an area-leading eight interceptions last fall, is joined at linebacker by Ty Barber, last year’s leading tackler for the Stallions, while Smith is joined by Devion Williams, a rising senior in the secondary. Rising senior DeShawn Davis will be one of the few returning receivers, while rising senior Brandon Fisher will be the lone returnee from last year’s outstanding defensive line group.
New coaches: The arrival of new offensive coordinator Jason McManus, from a junior college in Mississippi, should take the Stallions to another level. Herron filled in last season on the fly, but prefers to focus on defense. McManus should help South Pointe wring the best out of its stable of athletes.
Spring report: The spring practice season was important for South Pointe offensively, as they get familiar with McManus’ methods. “We’re still a spread team. His terminology is different,” said Herron. “He’s got a very good scheme that I think is going to help us in the passing game. It’s been going good; I think the kids like it.” The Stallions finished up for the school year Friday night with a scrimmage scheduled to last just over an hour. Then it’s on to summer work for Herron and company.
2014 outlook: The Stallions return to Class AAA in the fall of 2014 ready to dominate. Herron’s program more than held its own at the 4A level, playing deep in the playoffs the last two seasons, and that will be expected to continue this fall. They join a Region 3-3A that’s tough, including Chester and Lancaster, as well as Union, Broome and Clinton, but the competition pales compared to what the Stallions were facing the same time last year.
August: 22- New Covenant; 29- at Rock Hill
September: 5- at York; 12- Vance (N.C.); 19- at Northwestern; 26- Open
October: 3- Union County; 10- Chester; 17- at Lancaster; 24- Broome; 31- at Clinton
Non-region opponents’ cumulative 2013 record: 35-17; region opponents: 21-34; total: 56-51, 52.3 winning percentage
Coach: Anthony Sterling, 5th year
Last year: 3-7 overall, 1-4 in Region 3-3A
Starters returning: 7 offense, 8 defense
Key departures: LB Daryl Foster, ATH Quan Caldwell, OL Dakeavis Wilmore, OL Denzell Marshall
Key returning: Tommy Sanders returns for his senior year at quarterback; he holds offers from Appalachian State, Gardner-Webb and Charlotte. Earl Hinton is another player that the Cyclones will look to for offense, as he’ll move across from defense to play running back and slot receiver. Defensive tackle Temaris Dixon, a wrestling standout, is another Chester player that is getting recruited by colleges, and senior linebacker David Days will be counted on to replace Foster at linebacker.
New coaches: none at the moment
Spring report: Sterling said there was no extra urgency to perform this spring because of last season’s playoff-less campaign. “We set our expectations high but we try to keep it at a level playing field because we don’t want to get them too anxious,” he said.
2014 outlook: Sanders only completed about 38 percent of his passes last season, symbolic of a sub-par season for the Cyclones. Sterling expects that to swing around this coming season. “Tommy had a great spring. He made some great reads and you can tell he’s maturing a lot,” said Sterling. “Last year, he had kind of an off-season, but this year he’s got his mind focused on what it needs to be.”
August: 22- at Lewisville; 29- Fairfield Central
September: 5- Rock Hill; 12- York; 19- at Lower Richland; 26- Open
October: 3- Lancaster; 10- at South Pointe; 17- at Broome; 24- Clinton; 31- at Union County
Non-region opponents’ cumulative 2013 record: 36-24; region opponents: 29-30; total: 65-54, 54.6 winning percentage
Coach: Bobby Collins, 1st year
Last year: 2-9 overall, 0-7 in Region 3-4A
Starters returning: all positions are open
Key departures: Defensive lineman Quay Reid, linebacker Quinshun Evans, defensive lineman Darius Truesdale, wide receiver Austin Franceschelli.
Key returning: the Bruins return a number of talented skill position players, including Division I prospect receiver Jay Hood, utility athlete Dre Bailey, who transferred in from Lewisville and will likely play both sides of the ball, and linebacker Cam Meadows, an All-Area first team selection last fall, who returns for his senior season this fall. Collins said he’s been impressed this spring with the play and effort of running back John Bush and rising senior offensive lineman Trevin Watts.
New coaches: Head coach Collins is the biggest addition. He takes over for Bennie McMurray, who retired after a lengthy career that included stays at Lewisville and E.E. Waddell (N.C.). Hiring Collins away from Hough High School in Cornelius, N.C., was a bit of a coup for Lancaster.
Spring report: Lancaster’s numbers were down this spring, but that’s to be expected as Collins efforts to rebuild the program at the 3A level. The last few weeks weren’t as much about schemes and plays. “The biggest thing we wanted to get done this spring was being able to teach the guys how to practice,” said Collins. “The practice level that we wanted, to be willing to compete with guys and accept coaching and be in the mode of how we’re going to be doing things this year.”
2014 outlook: Lancaster makes the welcome move down to 3A, where the Bruins will have an easier time matching up numbers-wise with opponents. Collins arrives with a winning pedigree from his four seasons at Hough, where he was 25-20, including 19-5 the last two years, and should inject some life back into the program. Region 3-3A won’t be much easier than the 4A version, but it should enable the Bruins to get back on their feet and rebuild. Returning a number of skill players should help the transition too.
August: 22- Open; 29- Andrew Jackson
September: 5- at Richland Northeast; 12- Pageland Central; 19- at Camden; 26- at Lewisville
October: 3- at Chester; 10- Clinton; 17- South Pointe; 24- at Union; 31- at Broome
Non-region opponents’ cumulative 2013 record: 24-32; region opponents: 30-28; total: 54-60, 52.6 winning percentage
Coach: Michael Mayer, 14th year
Last year: 2-8 overall, 1-4 in Region 4-2A; lost to Columbia in first round of 2A playoffs
Starters returning: 5 offensive, 5 defensive
Key departures: WR Manny McCord, QB George Morris, WR Dylan Steen
Key returning: Indian Land returns seven sophomores that saw significant playing time last season, including five 10th grade starters. Fullback Austin Gordon, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound load, is chief among those, as well as linebackers Chris Blakeney and Trevor Martin, who were the team’s top-two tacklers. Up front, another pair of rising juniors, Dakota Brigman and Jacob Williams, will anchor an offensive line that should be much better. Indian Land also brings back kicker Shea Rodgers for his senior season; Mayer calls Rodgers the best kicker in the state.
New coaches: Former Washington Redskins linebacker Horatio “H.B.” Blades takes over as Indian Land’s defensive coordinator. Blades, who also played football at the University of Pittsburgh, comes down from Parkwood High School in Monroe. He’ll oversee the Warriors’ shift from a 3-5 defense to a 4-3.
Spring report: Indian Land’s success in soccer and baseball was a double-edged sword for the school’s football program. Football players that also played those sports weren’t able to participate in spring practice, but Mayer was still pleased with the turnout of over 90 players. Besides, as Mayer said, “it’s a good problem to have.” The Warriors’ coach says the job of replacing Morris under center is still up for grabs.
2014 outlook: It will be imperative for Indian Land to run the ball better in 2014. The Warriors had an able passing quarterback last fall in Morris, but opposing teams flooded the secondary, knowing Mayer’s team struggled to run the ball. With Gordon back, and three solid offensive linemen returning up front, Indian Land should be able to run the rock more effectively. “Size-wise, it’s gonna’ be the biggest team we’ve had in the last three or four years,” said Mayer. “Clover’s gonna probably be the only team that has more rushing yards than us.”
August: 22- Open; 29- Buford
September: 5- at Blacksburg; 12- Lewisville; 19- at Cheraw; 26- Chesterfield
October: 3- Pageland Central; 10- Mid-Carolina; 17- North Central; 24- at Buford; 31- at Andrew Jackson
Non-region opponents’ cumulative 2013 record: 23-34; region opponents: 21-36; total: 44-70, 38.5 winning percentage
Coach: Ken Schofield, 15th year
Last year: 6-6 overall, 3-1 in Region 3-1A; lost to Ridge Spring-Monetta in the second round of 1A-Division II playoffs
Starters returning: 6 offensive, 6 defensive
Key departures: ATH Marcus Davis, WR Jamarcus Culp, TE/LB David Jeter, DB Josh Simpson, OL Tyrell Gill.
Key returning: Quarterback Chris Culp will be back for his senior year, his second full season as the Red Devils’ starter under center. Schofield said his 225-pound QB “has a good arm and good legs,” and will be counted on to pilot Great Falls down the field. Also helping to that end are tailback Lemarion Crane and slot-back Shyheim Kelly, who was recently clocked at 4.5 in the 40. Up front, linemen Ty Ross, who benches over 400 pounds, and Tyler Langley will anchor an offensive line that will also play a lot of snaps on defense.
New coaches: Schofield is actually on the hunt for new coaches, but hasn’t filled the roles yet.
Spring report: Spring football is a little different at Great Falls. Without the numbers to scrimmage or risk injury, the Red Devils were in shorts and helmets for the eight days they worked out. Schofield said it, “went great, just don’t have a lot of players. You do what you can do at Great Falls.” Eighth graders worked out with the team for the first time, a valuable head-start leading into the summer.
2014 outlook: Great Falls produced a solid 2013 season, and if they can avoid injuries, they should expect the same in 2014. The talent is there, especially with Culp, Crane and Kelly in the backfield. Schofield: “We’re looking forward to what we can do this year, we just have to plot it in the right places.” The Red Devils will play first-year charter school Gray Collegiate Academy twice, in part because of the difficulty Great Falls has in scheduling. Big schools won’t play them, and they’re fairly isolated from other 1A schools, outside of their rivals from Lewisville. It’s just another challenge of the job; as Schofield says, “if you can coach here, you can coach anywhere.”
August: 22- at Blacksburg; 29- Gray Collegiate Academy
September: 5- Buford; 12- at Andrew Jackson; 19- Open; 26- at Wagener-Salley
October: 3- C.A. Johnson; 10- Gray Collegiate Academy; 17- McBee; 24- at Lamar; 31- Lewisville
Non-region opponents’ cumulative 2013 record: 15-29; region opponents: 22-23; total: 37-52, 41.5 winning percentage
Coach: Will Mitchell, 3rd year
Last year: 5-6 overall, 1-3 in Region 3-1A; lost to Christ Church in first round of 1A-Division II playoffs
Starters returning: 3 offensive, 5 defensive
Key departures: ATH Tony Gaston, DB Michael Spence, LB Parker Cox, OL Gill Wilson, OL P.J. Lucas
Key returning: Running back Christian Laws returns to the Lions in a different position (he played defense last fall), while Tyrone McCullough and Marquis Hart will be two of the main hog cogs up front. George Busby is another lineman to watch; the rising senior is inexperienced, but also 6-foot-5, 300 pounds. Lewisville’s most crucial returning player will probably be quarterback Cody Montgomery, who was nominated to WSOC-TV’s Big 22 this week, and is a 6-foot-4 rising senior.
New coaches: none at the moment
Spring report: Mitchell said this last semester was the first time he’s had his entire team in weight-training class together. It’s paying off already. “In the last two weeks, we probably had the two most physical practices we’ve had since I’ve been here,” said Mitchell. “We’ve made some huge gains in strength. We’re still not where we need to be, but we’re way ahead of where we were.” The weight-training will especially come in handy when Mitchell has to play more players on both sides of the football, something he’s loathe to do, but may be forced into.
2014 outlook: Lewisville returns a very promising quarterback in Montgomery, but the Lions’ skill players will be young, including the wonderfully named wide receiver Darnell Cabbagestalk, who didn’t play much last year but emerged in the past few weeks. Lewisville will rely on its meaty interior and a screen-passing game. The Lions are also strengthened by the return of several players that previously played for the program but didn’t turn out last year, including linebacker Ben Catoe.
August: 22- Chester; 29- Blacksburg
September: 5- at Chesterfield; 12- at Indian Land; 19- Carolina Pride; 26- Lancaster
October: 3- at McBee; 10- Lamar; 17- Open; 24- C.A. Johnson; 31- at Great Falls
Non-region opponents’ cumulative 2013 record: 20-44; region opponents: 23-23; total: 43-67, 39.1 winning percentage