This is one of the best rivalries in South Carolina, in part because of its old-school town-versus-town quality. Folks in York and Clover grow up right next to each other, playing each other in every sport through 12th grade. That engenders something that, if not hatred, is very close.
Clover’s win over York last season spiced this rivalry back up a bit, after the Cougars dominated the series for five years under Bobby Carroll. York and Clover’s 2017 meeting on Sept. 22 at Memorial Stadium will undoubtedly produce one of the area’s biggest crowds of the season.
Clover pounded York in the first half of last season’s game, building a 22-0 lead that the Blue Eagles clung to late for the win. It was clinical Blue Eagles ground-and-pound football, seen maybe for the last time against York since new coach Brian Lane is shifting the program to a spread offense.
This game comes at an interesting point in the schedule for Clover. York will be the Blue Eagles’ first South Carolina opponent in 2017 (after four Gastonia schools) and will signal the beginning of very serious football, with Region 4-5A play kicking off the following week.
What kind of shape will Clover be in headed into the York game? Will the Blue Eagles be limping along, their wings clipped by struggles adapting to a new offensive identity, or will they be soaring on a confidence high after some cross-border wins, the spread offense transition having sped up somewhat surprisingly? Hard to tell in July.
Revisit last year’s game with video highlights from Clover’s win:
Since he returned to coach his alma mater, Carroll made beating Clover a regularity. So it’ll be interesting to see how the Cougars bounce back this September after the Blue Eagles dinged their egos a year ago.
In the 2016 loss, York’s offense was still somewhat limited with new QB Ethan Mitchell. He completed 25-of-33 passes against Clover, but averaged just over 7 yards per completion and York lacked big play capabilities. A year on, he -- and his offensive coaches -- should be more comfortable going deeper with the ball, especially if a downfield threat can emerge in the receiving corps.
Last year’s furious finish, in which York scored a pair of touchdowns in less than a minute late in the fourth quarter, showed that coasting to the finish in this rivalry is a rarity.
These two schools first played in 1923 and have played very nearly every year since. Clover and York had split the previous 10 games (Clover winning the first five and York the next five) before the Blue Eagles won in 2016. The Cougars won 23 out of 26 games from 1968 to 1993, giving them a big cushion in the all-time series win-loss column, though many of the results from before 1952 are spotty at best.
The Showdown Countdown so far
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.