One subject comes up repeatedly when talking about Rock Hill High’s 2017 football team: youth.
Senior Logan McFadden is likely to take over at QB and coach Bubba Pittman thinks he can do a good job. Senior Des Buchanan and junior Narrii Gaither give Rock Hill a solid backfield tandem; Gaither will also play linebacker and be a key contributor for the Bearcats.
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From there, the team’s age and experience levels plummet.
Rock Hill replaces four of five offensive line starters. Senior Devin Cannon will start at left tackle and rising sophomore Carson Murray will probably win the center job. The defensive line is in similar shape, with noseguard Logan Hicks returning, but few other established contributors in the mix.
The Bearcats need some linebackers to emerge from a young group, but the secondary has promise. Senior Jordan Morris moves to cornerback from safety and is a ball-hawk. Six-foot-2 sophomore Anthony Jackson is a potential college prospect from whom Rock Hill needs high level play early.
Pittman also needs to find a kicker; two players, Ryan Hearn and Dylan Faile, are competing to replace graduated North-South kicker Zhenya Deller.
Coach: Bubba Pittman, 4th year (8-25)
Assistant coaches: Joey Fowler, offensive line; Jym Jollie, offensive line; Marcus Porter, offensive line; Bradley Catoe, running backs; Tim Sawyer, wide receivers; Jason Layman, defensive coordinator; Wardell Rouse, linebackers; Mike Mayer, defensive line; Chris Price, linebackers; Tim Jones, linebackers; Tony Watkins, defensive backs.
Last season: 2-9, lost in the first round of 5A playoffs
Last 5 years: 15-41, 2 playoff appearances
Playoff wins last 5 years: 0
Returning starters: 8 (4 offense, 4 defense)
Key number: 6 - Rock Hill will start six, possibly seven, sophomores against a schedule featuring nine teams that made the playoffs last season.
Key returning players: Sr. DB Jordan Morris, Sr. WR Justin Patterson, Jr. DT Logan Hicks, Jr. LB/RB Narrii Gaither, Sr. RB Des Buchanan, Soph. WR Antonio Barber, Jr. WR Raphael Wright, Sr. OL Devin Cannon, Sr. QB Logan McFadden, Soph. DB Anthony Jackson, Jr. LB Alex English, Jr. DB Nick Ervin.
Weakness: Offensive line will be a weakness, at least initially, for Pittman’s team. Only one starting spot is truly locked in and six or seven kids are competing for three other positions. The Bearcats’ Air Raid scheme doesn’t require blocks to be held too long when throwing the ball, but Rock Hill needs to be able to move the ball on the ground to keep opposing defenses honest.
Strength: Rock Hill again has skill position talent. Its backfield duo of Buchanan and Gaither are both hard runners and soft-handed in the passing game. While the receivers are less experienced, there is talent in that group as well, especially sophomore Antonio Barber. Rock Hill needs many of its sophomores to step up, but maybe none more than Barber, who has Division I scholarship offers already.
Coachspeak: “We don’t have a break anywhere in our schedule. But that allows us to make some noise if we get out there and play and execute.”
August: 18 Blythewood; 25 at York
September: 1 South Pointe; 8 at Boiling Springs; 15 Dorman; 22 Bye; 29 at Gaffney
October: 6 at Nation Ford; 13 Fort Mill; 20 at Clover; 27 Northwestern
- Rock Hill’s opponents won 67 percent of their games in 2016 (82-41) and include nine playoff teams and one state champion (South Pointe).