When South Pointe fumbled the opening kickoff, the Stallions' defense was placed immediately behind the eight ball. The Trojans took advantage and scored on the short field and took a quick lead, but never crossed the goal line for the remainder of the game.
DeVonte Holloman, Pat Burris, Stephon Gillmore, Mike Gaither, and Jeremy Massey paced the Stallions' secondary and held the Trojans and their famed "Air Raid" offense in check for much of the game. The secondary received help from lineman Jadeveon Clowney, who pressured Northwestern quarterback Justin Worley most of the game.
South Pointe ran a unique defense, dropping nine players back into pass coverage while rushing only two. Add in a few blitzes and stunts, and the Stallions never allowed the Trojans to get into a rhythm.
The Trojans moved the ball well in between the 20-yard lines, but suffered in the red zone and failed to put points on the board. South Pointe held the Trojans 26 points below their season average.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Herald
The scheme was put in place by South Pointe defensive coordination Strait Herron and his coaching staff. Herron came up with the unique formations by watching countless hours of film. The Stallions switched a couple of positions, but it was the players who worked out their plan.
"I am so proud of these kids and what they accomplished tonight," said Herron, a Northwestern graduate and former coach. "We respect the Northwestern program, and being a part of South Pointe's first win over them was special.
"We made some changes this week based on the film we broke down. Stephon Gillmore played more on the defensive side than he is used to, and came up big tonight along with the rest of our team. The turnovers put us in some tough spots, but we responded well."
South Pointe overcame five turnovers in a game that was marred by mistakes on both sides of the ball. Burris salted the game away when he intercepted Worley with less than seven minutes remaining.
"That play was big," said Burris of his interception. "It got tipped around by a couple teammates and I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. After losing last year's game by over 20 points, it felt especially nice to finally beat them and pushes us to work harder as we get into the rest of the season."
Hollomon got his first experience of big time Rock Hill football after transferring from Charlotte's Independence High School this year.
"We came together as a team this week," said Holloman. "All week, our coaches stressed the 'bend but do not break' approach with Northwestern. There were a few assignments we missed, but overall, we played excellent as a unit.
"Playing down here is different than anything I experienced at Independence. This was small town, big time rivalry, and an opportunity for us to showcase our talent in front of a huge crowd. The win was big, but now we have to work on next week."
Holloman's comments echoed those heard around District Three Stadium all night. A packed house, crosstown rivals, and the crescent moon framed by the goalpost created a college-like atmosphere.
The only thing missing was the smell of freshly gut grass since District Three Stadium switched to field turf this season.
The talent on the field had college scouts salivating; the matchup between two of South Carolina's top three high school teams made the Northwestern-South Pointe game the premier sporting event in the state over the weekend.
Rock Hill has always been a hotbed for football. Many die-hard football fans feared that spreading the talent over three schools would diminish the quality of the tradition-rich Rock Hill schools with the addition of South Pointe. But based on the turnout and performance by both schools Thursday, the Stallions have only made football in Rock Hill more exciting.
If both teams stay the course, it would surprise no one to see a rematch during the playoffs between the same two schools.