Copy and paste this line from any of the The Herald’s last two high school football previews: South Pointe, the defending state champion, looks like the favorite for another trophy this fall. The 2017 Stallions are loaded as they try to win a fourth straight title under coach Strait Herron.
Big-time FBS recruits Derion Kendrick (Clemson), Eli Adams (Virginia Tech) and B.T. Potter (Clemson) give the Stallions a game-changer in each phase of the game, and they’re surrounded by supporting players, many of whom are college football-bound themselves. Kendrick will likely line up at multiple positions as needed this fall.
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South Pointe has some questions on an offensive line led by senior Jaydon Collins, and in the backfield, where a group of running backs will alternate carries. But they have a slew of quality defensive backs, one of the best athletes around in linebacker/safety/spur B.J. Davis and a promising defensive line, led by Adams and Jalen Pickett-Hicks. If Kendrick, the QB, can help glue the team’s offense together, South Pointe should be in good shape for another repeat.
Coach: Strait Herron, 7th year (77-11)
Assistant coaches: Jason Winstead, defensive coordinator; Calvin McCullough, defensive backs; Nathan Green, strength and conditioning and linebackers; Gerald Peake, defensive line; Jason McManus, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks; Robert Beckler, running backs and special teams coordinator; Welvin Simpkins, wide receivers; Mike Zapolnik, offensive lineman.
Last season: 14-1, won 4A state championship
Last 5 years: 63-10, 3 state championships
Playoff wins last 5 years: 19
Returning starters: 13 (5 offense, 8 defense)
Key number: 10 - South Pointe only had to defend 10 kickoff returns last season, despite scoring 80 touchdowns and kicking off at least once to start the first or third quarter each game. That’s because of B.T. Potter, who was an underrated huge part of the Stallions’ third straight state title, bashing kickoffs into and through the end zone for touchbacks and limiting opponent’s field position and opportunities for momentum-changing returns.
Key returning players: Sr. DE Eli Adams, Sr. QB Derion Kendrick, Sr. K/P B.T. Potter, Sr. DB Jamari Currence, Sr. LB/WR B.J. Davis, Sr. DB/WR Scott Robinson Jr., Jr. OL Jackson Chappell, Jr. LB Dwayne Davis, Sr. DB Justin Reese, Jr. DB Jaylen Mahoney, Sr. OL Jaydon Collins, Sr. DL Jalen Pickett-Hicks.
Weakness: South Pointe’s mental fortitude isn’t a weakness yet, but it’s definitely a concern headed into the season. Will the Stallions be able to cope with the expectations - and cockiness - that rightfully accompany three straight state championships? They have the last few years.
Strength: Defense is the easiest way to sum this up. The Stallions return most of one of the state’s best secondaries, with at least three surefire FBS players. And their defensive line should be much improved and more capable of taking blocking focus off of Virginia Tech-bound Eli Adams.
Coachspeak: “I would say this is the most talented we’ve been since I’ve been the head coach here. I’m not gonna go past that, and who knows how talented we are? We’ve got good players, good talent, we all know that. But it takes a lot more to win games.”
August: 18 Northwestern; 25 at Nation Ford
September: 1 at Rock Hill; 8 Bye; 15 at Buford (Ga.); 22 Shelby (N.C.); 29 at Ridge View
October: 6 at Westwood; 13 Lancaster; 20 at Richland Northeast; 27 York
- South Pointe’s opponents won 63 percent of their games in 2016 (75-45) and include eight playoff teams and one state champion (Shelby).