Near the end of a contest that was largely riddled with mistakes — a broken play fixed everything.
Through three quarters and some change on Friday night, the matchup between Rock Hill and South Pointe, which ended in a 26-15 South Pointe victory, seemed like it was going to be a defensive struggle: In the first half, there were only three total offensive plays that resulted in gains more than 20 yards, and the two teams notched four turnovers and combined for 209 yards of total offense.
But just as the game seemed like it was going to be defined by redundancy — of rush after rush into the line, of penalty after penalty that encumbered the game’s unremarkable flow — the game changed.
It happened. Or, more specifically, Kobe Shannon happened.
South Pointe had set up for a 39-yard field goal, the team down, 15-14.
The snap was low. The Stallions’s offensive line leaked; the Rock Hill defensive linemen swarmed the ball and blocked the kick.
And then, seizing a moment that would soon change the game, Shannon, a senior, picked the loose ball up, regained possession for his team and ran 39 yards for a South Pointe go-ahead touchdown.
In that play, the Stallions took the lead — 20-15 — and they never gave it back.
“Somebody was looking over us,” South Pointe head coach said after his team’s second win of the season. “Usually, when something like that happens, it turns into points the other way. But Kobe picked it up and I think got two key blocks, and he took off.”
For a moment, before this broken play blessed the team, it seemed like a string of mistakes and missed assignments would lead to South Pointe’s first loss of the season. The Stallions, after all, muffed the first punt they received. They allowed a kick return for a touchdown by Rock Hill’s Tylik Edwards. They even lost a fumble within their own five-yard-line that Rock Hill later capitalized on for its only offensive touchdown.
And yet, the Stallions escaped with a win, somehow: by the brawn of a defensive line that notched eight tackles for loss — and by the virtuous unpredictability of football.
“I’ve been coaching this game for 20 years, and that’s the first time I’ve ever seen that happen,” Rock Hill head coach Bubba Pittman said after his team fell to 0-2 on the season. “You know, it’s heartbreaking for our kids, that’s the No. 1 thing.”
Pittman continued: “Our defense fights, fights, fights, and they get to a game-changing situation, and they block a kick. And then it just falls into a guy’s lap. Tip your hat to that kid. He made a great play. He picks it up, keeps his wits about him and runs it into the endzone.”
Offensively, South Pointe was led by quarterback Tahleek Steele, who notched 12-for-22 passing for 136 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Senior Quay Chambers added 113 yards on the ground on 14 carries — including a 55-yard touchdown run with less than two minutes left in the game that put to rest the last inkling of hope for a Bearcat comeback.
“Quay Chambers ran hard,” Holloman said. “It seems like the more he touches the ball, the harder he runs.”
For the Bearcats, junior Tommy Neff notched 27 carries and rushed for 68 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Jordan Thurmond completed 18-of-32 passes for 104 yards.
“In football, you never know what’s going to happen,” Pittman said. “You have to play until the scoreboard reads 0:00, and that’s what our kids do, and they do it every single week, and I’m proud of them for that.”
Friday night’s game, despite what happened before it or after it, will be remembered for the play. The big play.
The play, as Coach Holloman admitted postgame, that seemed to be broken.
“I was proud of the way our kids fought through adversity,” he said. “And then, the ball, you know, just bounced our way.”