Rock Hill teams show the actual meaning of Football City, USA

Northwestern beats Lexington for the 4A Division State Championship.
Northwestern beats Lexington for the 4A Division State Championship. Special to The Herald

A tweet from The Herald earlier this week received the following response:

“Wouldn’t it be nice if we were ‘(insert something that matters) City, SC’”

Fair enough.

It would be super neat if Rock Hill were known as Biomedical Research City, USA, or Nexus of Higher Learning City, USA, or Zero Gun Violence City, USA. But Football City, USA, isn’t a bad alternative.

Fans across the state who witnessed South Pointe and Northwestern win high school football state titles on Saturday – in completely dominant fashion – or parents who watched the city’s Gray-Y all-stars beat Florence to win the youth football state title at River Bluff High School earlier the same day, saw the results, the trophies, the stats, the highlight hits and touchdowns. They definitely saw the city pride from an army of fans who made the one-hour trip south.

They didn’t see what really makes Rock Hill Football City, USA, or why that moniker is a vital part of the city’s continued improvement.

Sitting in the stands, you wouldn’t see how football has created a surrogate father network throughout the city, keeping hundreds of kids who could have gone either way channeled down the right life path.

They may have seen Dexter Falls going crazy as the seconds melted away during South Pointe’s win over Midland Valley, or laughed as he tried to out-fox his players and the big orange jug of ice water they wanted to dump on his head.

They wouldn’t have seen the kids he drove home from practice, the ones whose ears he grabbed when they mouthed off or cut class. They wouldn’t have seen the mothers whispering a “thank you” for his help in making their boys become men. The great thing about Dexter? He was paying forward the same treatment he received as a teenager.

Fans seated in the stands for the third and final game at Williams-Brice may have seen a hulking young man encouraging the Northwestern defensive linemen as they warmed up. They might have guessed that fellow – Keon Stowers – played college football, and they’d be right.

It’s also true that the only reason he was in position to go to college for free on scholarship was because a football coach plucked him out of the hallway – and off the streets – and steered him in a more productive direction than the one his parents followed, one that led them both out of his life for many years. Just like Falls, Stowers is strengthening Football City, USA, by giving back the same way Trojan football coaches took care of him.

Those are just two examples that dawned on a writer scrambling to beat deadline.

Some in the city were tweeting the hashtag #1City2Rings as a way of emphasizing the city’s high school football dominance this fall. And Saturday certainly underscored Rock Hill’s status in 2015; the city became South Carolina’s first with two state champions in the same year since the schools desegregated, and probably earlier than that. Again, the deadline.

But the hashtag easily could have been #1Game1000sOfLives.

That’s the kind of impact that football – a game, but an important one for changing young men’s lives – has had on Rock Hill. And that’s why Football City, USA, should be as proud of its nickname as it is of the three teams that returned to the city limits Saturday as state champs.

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