Kicking off The Herald’s Showdown Countdown, it’s hard to top Northwestern-South Pointe. For sheer quality of football, this is the best rivalry in The Herald’s coverage area at the moment.
It’s also one of 2017’s curtain-raisers, a marquee matchup on the opening Friday night of the season that both programs would probably rather play in October or November when they were a more fully formed unit.
The 2017 game will come especially early for Northwestern, which replaces close to double-digit seniors that are playing college football this fall. The Trojans return 12 starters and are blessed in some position groups - particularly wide receiver and potentially on the offensive line - and far less so in others.
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Northwestern will break in a new QB regardless of which of two or three candidates snags the starting job; they’ll face the daunting task - fairly or unfairly - of falling into a recent QB lineage that has seen consecutive Trojan signal callers earn college football opportunities at Furman, Tennessee, Oklahoma State, College of Charleston (baseball) and James Madison.
Watch highlights from last year’s Northwestern-South Pointe thriller:
In the southern part of Rock Hill, expectations are sky-high for the three-time defending state champs. South Pointe, too, has some questions to answer, notably which three or four guys will emerge at linebacker.
But the Stallions’ concerns pale in comparison to most high school football programs across the state. Strait Herron’s team returns starting QB and future Clemson Tiger Derion Kendrick, a defensive secondary loaded with future college football players, a promising defensive line led by Virginia Tech commit Eli Adams and one of the best kickers in the state, another Clemson commit, B.T. Potter.
Excitement would surround this game regardless of when it’s played, but opening the season with a matchup of this caliber - and the players involved having an entire summer to think about it and trade smack talk - only ramps up the anticipation.
Northwestern leads the series 7-6. The Trojans won three straight from 2013-15, but South Pointe nicked last year’s game thanks to a late Geomni Mayfield touchdown. The average margin of victory is just over 15 points, but five of the last six meetings have been decided by a touchdown or less.
Editor’s note: The Herald is counting down to the 2017 high school football season by revealing the 10 most interesting games in York, Chester and Lancaster counties this coming fall. Games will be organized by date and revealed in Monday, Wednesday and Friday newspapers.