The Clover High School football team makes the trek to Rock Hill Friday to face the Bearcats amid efforts to have a positive outlook after a 14-7 loss to Fort Mill.
Kickoff time for the cross-county rivals is 7:30 p.m. at Rock Hill’s District Three Stadium.
After a recent nail-biter loss in the final 20 seconds to then-No. 1 ranked York, the Bearcats ran into a Gaffney team on a mission at the Reservation stadium Oct. 3, with the suddenly potent Indians prevailing, 31-14.
“Rock Hill is a much improved team from last year,” said Chad Smith, Clover’s head coach. “Their defensive front is strong. We know the Bearcats will be ready to play.”
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The Bearcats, led by first-year head coach Bobby Pittman, had their moments against the Gaffney team that is unbeaten in Region 3-AAAA at 2-0 after a sluggish start in a brutal early-season schedule.
After falling behind early against the home-standing Indians, Rock Hill got on the board in the second quarter on a 15-yard touchdown toss from quarterback Brandon Banks to DeShaun McFadden.
With the offense clicking on all cylinders, the Indians came back to build a 17-7 halftime lead and held on in the second half for the win.
The Bearcats pulled to within striking distance in dramatic fashion in the third quarter, when McFadden scored on a 90-yard interception return.
Forced out of the pocket by an aggressive Gaffney defensive pursuit, Banks finished 12 of 26 passing for 161 yards.
The outcome of the Clover-Fort Mill game on Oct. 3 was in doubt with less than a minute to go and the Clover Blue Eagles knocking at the door.
The Fort Mill defense came up with a stop when it had to, preserving the win in a closely-contested region game at Memorial Stadium.
“Our final drive started with 2:30 left in the game,” Smith said. “We were throwing the ball because we had to and moving down the field.”
The Blue Eagles were stopped on fourth down. “Fort Mill got defensive penetration off the edge,” Smith said.
The Blue Eagles dotted the scoreboard in the early moments of the third quarter, with senior running back R.J. Moore providing the offensive punch.
Moore’s 34-yard scamper put Clover in business inside the 10.
Coby Hamblen, who stands 5-feet-11-inches and tips the scales at 188, scored on a 9-yard run, and Sam Edmunds added the points after touchdown, much to the delight of the homecoming crowd.
Moore, who has been nursing a high ankle sprain, had a 30-yard run on Clover’s next possession, giving the Blue Eagle double-wing scheme a spark.
“R.J. said at halftime he was ready to play,” Smith said before a recent practice. “We put him in the game, and he did a good job.”
Moore said the injury was healing, and he was ready for action.
“The coaches gave me an opportunity in the second half,” More said. “I got into space and gained yardage. It felt good.”
Smith praised the Blue Eagles’ defensive effort.
“The offense kept the ball for 31 minutes, which helped the defense,” he said. “We shut down Fort Mill’s run game, limiting them to 100 yards rushing – 40 of those yards on one play.”
Taylor Foster, a 6-foot-3, 216-pound middle linebacker, was a major force in the Blue Eagles’ gritty defensive effort.
“We played good defense against a Fort Mill team that has a real good offense,” said Foster. “Our defense has improved since the beginning of the season. I think we will continue to improve.”
Foster added: “We need to stay focused on defense.”
Clover coach Smith praised the defensive performance and said he would like to see more of the same. “When we play defense like we did against Fort Mill, we can compete with any team in our region,” Smith said.