It’s hard to think of two better high school football towns in the Carolinas than Rock Hill and Shelby. It’s only natural that these two transitioning mill towns square off on the gridiron this fall, on Sept. 22 at South Pointe.
There is hardly a North Carolina high school football program more dominant right now than Shelby.
Under coach Lance Ware, the Golden Lions have improved from eight wins to 12, 14 and 15, culminating in a 16-0 record this past season. Shelby allowed less than 10 points per game en route to another state title in December.
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The 14-time state champs have around 850 students enrolled and they usually compete in the Tar Heel state’s 2A or 2AA classifications. Jack Flagler of the Gaston Gazette says the Golden Lions graduated six of nine all-conference selections from last season, including ECU-bound wide receiver Jaylen Borders, but they have plenty of studs returning, led by linebacker Dax Hollifield (heavily recruited by South Carolina, Florida State and North Carolina) and QB Malik Sarratt, who threw 44 touchdown passes last season.
This is the second of back-to-back brutal out-of-state opponents for South Pointe in October, coming on the heels of the Oct. 15 road trip to Buford, Ga.
South Pointe, winners of three straight state titles in South Carolina, is 7-1 in its brief history against North Carolina schools, a mark that includes wins over Mallard Creek, Independence and West Rowan.
Sure there will be plenty of future college football players involved in this game, but it will also be interesting to see which, if any, lesser known players break out for South Pointe. When the Stallions lost to St. Frances Academy in Maryland last year, receiver Jonathan Muhammad had his first big game of the season, eventually becoming a pretty important part of their offense in the second half of the season.
One of the valuable aspects of these marquee matchups is finding out who else - besides the future FBS kids - can step up in times of need.
Check out video from South Pointe’s third consecutive state title last December:
Luke Ware, the local BSN Sports representative, helped put this game together. His brother, Lance, coaches Shelby, and Luke Ware knows South Pointe’s Strait Herron from his work selling the school its Nike football apparel and also from the weekly Tri-County Coaches Association meetings that BSN Sports sponsors.
Of the games in The Herald’s Showdown Countdown that aren’t already annual rivalries, Shelby-South Pointe would be the coolest addition to that list. Again, the towns are very similar in many ways, especially the intense interest in, and culture identification with, high school football. Plus, South Pointe and Shelby are pretty dang good most years so the rivalry would be competitive.
As of now, the two schools have a one-game contract. Get to work, Luke Ware.
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.