High School Sports

Moose's return

Northwestern's Jerel Miller catches up to a teammate during drills.
Northwestern's Jerel Miller catches up to a teammate during drills.

Northwestern football players Jerel Miller and Will King grew up wanting to play in high school for Jimmy "Moose'' Wallace.

Miller and King watched the Trojans since they were in grammar school, dreaming of the day they'd get the chance to proudly wear their purple uniforms.

They are getting their chance this season. After being away from the sidelines for two years, Wallace is back. He gave up his head coaching job two years ago to be a full time athletics director when the Rock Hill school district split the jobs.

When the chance came to get back in after Mike Allen stepped down earlier this year, Wallace made the jump.

Friday was the first day high schools in South Carolina could practice and one thing is certain -- he's the same old Moose.

"We've been working, ain't had a day off since April 5th,'' he said. "There's so much to do -- a ton of work -- and we are so far behind. We've been going at it, but you never know until the kids put on the pads.

"We had spring practice. I've been in the weight room all summer every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Gotta get to know the kids. That's important. They notice when you know their names -- all of them.''

The Trojans had 60 players Friday morning, which concerned Wallace. He said numbers for the varsity are fine, same as for the 9th-grade team. He's concerned about the junior varsity team and said more players are needed, that it's the effect of a third high school in town.

Watching his first practice since 2004, it was hard to tell Wallace was ever away.

Wallace stood in the middle of the field at times, constantly turning to see how each group was faring -- you'd swear the man has eyes in the back of his head.

At times he had his hands on his hips, whistle in his mouth.

Most of the time, he was in the stance most fans got to know during his 18 years at Northwestern; one arm folded across his chest, the elbow of the other on that one with his chin cupped in his hand and his practice schedule tucked into the front of his shorts.

Miller, considered by some recruiting analysts as the top junior linebacker in the state, said it was a great feeling being on the same field with Wallace.

"I'm excited to be back and I'm more excited to be playing for coach Wallace,'' Miller said. "I've dreamed about this moment since I was a little kid.

"When he left two years ago, I was in the ninth grade and didn't think it would happen. But it's here, and I'm getting to live my dream.''

There have been lots of young football players who grew up in this town wanting to play for Northwestern, same as at Rock Hill and now South Pointe, starting its own tradition after opening two years ago.

Wallace is an icon in these parts. In his first 18 seasons at Northwestern, Wallace was 187-53, a winning percentage of .779. The Trojans played in four Class AAAA Big 16 state championships, winning twice.

Before Northwestern, he was head coach at Lewisville and led the Lions to the Class A state championship in 1987. A year later, he took over at Northwestern. He has a 237-74 overall record.

King, a senior quarterback, passed for 1,547 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. He said after just one practice, he sees a difference from last year.

"Practice under coach Wallace is the way I like it,'' King said. "It's up-tempo and no standing around. When one group finishes, another is there ready to step in.

"This is what I wanted when I was little, to play for coach Wallace. He lets us know if we mess up, and will step into our offensive huddle and tell us what to do and to get it right. I think he'll make a difference in us having a good season.''

Wallace is known for his attention to detail and working his assistants long hours to ensure everything is in place. Wallace said he and his coaches stayed home from this week's South Carolina Athletic Coaches Association's Summer Clinic in Charleston to get ready for Friday morning. Wallace attended a mandatory rules meeting last Saturday at White Knoll High School in Lexington rather than "drive five hours'' to attend Thursday's in Charleston.

"We've been busy this week,'' Wallace said. "We've been painting the practice fields, handing out equipment, making sure we have birth certificates and that all other papers are in order.

"Today was a great day. We did well for our first practice and had a very good 30-minute team meeting before we went out. We are allowed 29 practices between now and August 23. That includes our scrimmages and we have to watch the clock. If we go over, it counts as two practices -- just a minute over. Gotta take advantage of our time on the practice field.''

Some things never change.

• NOTES: Wallace added three coaches to his staff.

Kyle Richardson, who played at South Point in Belmont, N.C., and at Appalachian State, is the offensive coordinator. He was an assistant coach Southwest Louisiana State and spent the last three seasons at Orangeburg-Wilkinson.

Michael Jordan came from North Carolina, where he was head coach at Garinger and Vance high schools. He will coach outside linebackers.

Morris Dickson moved over from Rock Hill and will coach wide receivers.

"We're getting a coach with college experience and two with a wealth of knowledge about high school football,'' Wallace said. "They are good additions to our staff.''

• HEADGEAR: Wallace has changed the Trojans' helmets.

They are still purple, but the numbers on the sides have been replaced by gold and white "Trojans'' in large script letters.

• Preview of Rock Hill's practice