Jamar Griffin’s 77-yard fumble recovery return for a touchdown last week was a welcome sight for York head coach Bobby Carroll.
Not only did the “scoop and score” help the Cougars stiff-arm Irmo in the second half of last Friday night’s 27-6 win over the Yellow Jackets, it also may have signaled a return to the turnover-forcing ways of many of Carroll’s best defenses at York, South Pointe and Northwestern.
“Ever since I’ve been coaching, one of our big goals was to score on defense and create three turnovers every game,” Carroll said Thursday, while taking a break from screwing new facemasks on to football helmets. “Our kids, everywhere I’ve been, bought into it.”
The side that creates a big turnover Friday night when No. 3 (in 4A) York hosts No. 2 (3A) South Pointe will take a Deon Sanders-like high-step toward a swell non-region win.
York (2-0) only forced 18 takeaways last fall, a huge drop from 2012 when the Cougars cooked up an incredible 45 turnovers. That defensive unit, the self-styled “Black Reign,” looked eerily similar to some of Carroll’s best South Pointe stoppers.
That South Pointe (2-0) created five turnovers in its 28-20 win over Rock Hill last weekend was no surprise; Stallion defenses have been doing that ever since the school has had varsity football. Carroll said Thursday that his undefeated 2008 state championship team scored 24 non-offensive touchdowns (counting special teams); taking away every offensive score by that 2008 team, the Stallions still would’ve finished the regular season 7-4.
Strait Herron took over in 2010 when Carroll left for his alma mater, but nothing on the defensive side of the ball changed at South Pointe insofar as mentality. Every practice, the Stallions churn through a turnover circuit where they learn to decide in an instant whether to scoop or fall on a fumble, or whether to tip or catch a possible interception.
“We talk about it every day,” said Herron. “It’s a big part of what we do, and just trying to get athletes in the right places. That helps a lot too.”
Last season’s Stallions intercepted 24 passes and recovered 15 fumbles, and they’ve created an average of 36 turnovers per season in the last three years. The damage those mountains of turnovers have inflicted is immeasurable. The psychological impact on the opponent can be as significant as the six points on the scoreboard. That swing has gone against the Stallions too.
“You could see it last week when Rock Hill did it to us,” said Herron, citing South Pointe’s two second quarter giveaways. “So it’s a big momentum-changer, and it’s something that excites the players. That’s what we’ll tell our defense, that when we get interceptions and scoop fumbles, that’s their offense. So it’s a big motivational thing for them.”
A timely turnover can do wonders for the mood on the opposite sideline. Stallion senior spur Marveon Mobley, who led the area with eight interceptions last season, experienced that firsthand against Rock Hill last week when he made a tightrope interception, his first of this season, right in front of a giddy mob of teammates.
It wasn’t the first time Mobley seemed to steal the coordinates of an opposition pass. The three keys are “watching film, staying focused, and just doing my job,” said the 6-foot-2 senior, who is receiving recruiting interest from, among others, Charlotte and N.C. State.
“The thing about him is his instincts, he’s just got great football instincts,” said Herron. “A lot of what he’s able to do is because of what he’s done in the past, just learning the game. He’s a great player, but he gets a lot of that just based off his instincts.”
The 2014 Stallions already have eight takeaways through the first two games, while York has seven. Griffin’s fumble recovery in the win over Irmo was the Cougars’ first non-offensive touchdown of 2014. York defensive back Patch Edwards thumped an Irmo pass-catcher and Griffin, a junior linebacker, was ready to pounce.
“Soon as I got the ball in my hands, I was just like ‘take off,’” he said Thursday before York’s practice.
Carroll hopes Griffin’s score is the first of many this fall, as he looks to remold his defense into a Stallion-like predatory unit. Neither coach would mind a pick-six or a scoop-and-score Friday.
“In a big game like this, they can be catastrophic,” Herron said. “If you have them at the wrong time, it can cost you. We know they do kind of the same stuff, so that’s gonna be a big part of the game.”