High School Football

Contender or pretender? Teams find out against South Pointe

Video: South Pointe's Ken'darius Fredrick talks Ridge View matchup

No. 1 South Pointe hosts No. 4 Ridge View in both teams' Region 3-4A opener Friday in Rock Hill. Recently announced Shrine Bowler Ken'darius Fredrick talked about the anticipated matchup.
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No. 1 South Pointe hosts No. 4 Ridge View in both teams' Region 3-4A opener Friday in Rock Hill. Recently announced Shrine Bowler Ken'darius Fredrick talked about the anticipated matchup.

Here’s a neat science project: testing the South Pointe football program’s jerseys to determine what substance rubs off on every new generation of Stallions.

Year after year, South Pointe is cold-blooded in the biggest games but the source of that trait is difficult to pin down. Has to be the jerseys, right?

“It ain’t from practice, I can tell you that,” coach Strait Herron half-joked on Wednesday as his team went through a two-hour workout behind the school. “But they can play, the guys can play. That lethargic attitude, mood, that they have is so irritating. But when the lights come on …”

South Pointe football teams have given Bobby Carroll and Herron headaches since the school began playing in 2006. Victories may have been the only thing more frequent; the Stallions have won 85 percent of their playoff games in the program’s short history, best in the state.

8 straight seasons with 10 wins for South Pointe. The Stallions have won at least 12 games - and four state titles - in six of those eight years.

“It’s just a part of the tradition. No. 1 thing? They believe they can win, they believe they can beat anybody,” said Herron. “The only thing we do as coaches is we continue to foster that. Because I’m the same way. When I walk in to give the pregame speech they can tell from the tone of my voice that we’re not gonna get beat. They feed off that.”

The best thing that can happen to a South Pointe football team is to be underestimated or backed into a corner.

The Stallions (4-1) already have three such games under their belt in 2016, “upsetting” Northwestern and Charlotte’s Mallard Creek and coming from behind in the last few minutes to shock Rock Hill. Regardless of how it gets done – and sometimes it’s ugly – South Pointe just wins. Ridge View coach Perry Parks has been watching a lot of South Pointe film this week as he readies his undefeated and No. 4-ranked Blazers (5-0) to face the Stallions and he’s seen that quality, especially from the Mallard Creek game.

“That was just a scrappy performance,” he said on Tuesday. “They didn’t care who they were playing, they were out there to win the game. And that’s what happened.”

Their kids expect success on Friday nights. I don’t think there’s a team that South Pointe’s played in the last five or six years that they didn’t go out there expecting to win the game. That confidence breeds success.

Ridge View coach Perry Parks on South Pointe’s winning tradition

The 32-year old second-year coach is trying to engender the same kind of swagger in his program. The Blazers are off to their best start since 2005.

“I like the way this matchup is taking place,” said Parks. “If you look at our five wins, they’ve been the same way. We really haven’t played good football but we’ve found a way to win. As a coach you appreciate your athletes being athletes for you and making plays, when plays matter. That adverse of that – and I’m sure coach Herron thinks the same way – we want our guys to play at a high level all the time.”

The Blazers have eked out results against quality opposition so far – beating Sumter, Blythewood and Fairfield Central – thanks in part to a bevy of college-worthy talent. Both teams have six or seven Division I players in their ranks, and both had two players selected to the Shrine Bowl.

As far as a better game in the state with Division I talent, there’s not one. It’s kind of baffled me how this game has not been put on a bigger stage than what it is. We’re bringing six Division I guys and South Pointe is bringing seven-plus. Nowhere else in the state of South Carolina are you gonna find 13 Division I guys on the field.

Ridge View coach Perry Parks

The challenge for Ridge View on Friday night is finding the mental strength to match South Pointe between the ears. The school that produced Clowney and Gilmore has won more than a few games in warmups, their loose, jubilant collective swagger unnerving teams on the other side of the field.

“We’re locked in but we also have a lot of fun,” said senior safety Ken’darius Fredrick. “We don’t let any team intimidate us.”

That fact seemed to surprise Mallard Creek, which left the city limits with a surprising loss caused in part by 16 penalty flags.

“You’ve got to play smart because you’ve got that title,” said senior linebacker Bryson Cooper, who along with Fredrick, will represent his school in the Shrine Bowl. “People are gonna try to cheap shot you, see where your head is at. Keep a level head and they can’t break you, and after a while you’re gonna get in their head.”

I started playing in fourth grade and I’ve always hated to lose.

South Pointe’s Ken’darius Fredrick

Herron said his team is always the underdog. Whether that’s true or not, Stallions coaches sensationalize even the most miniscule perceived slights, an effort that seems to offset the players’ extreme confidence. A good example comes from the 2014 3A state championship; Hartsville entered as the favorite after smashing a couple of Lower State teams on the way to the final. The Red Foxes hadn’t seen a team with athleticism and speed like South Pointe all season, but that didn’t matter to most folks.

“We told them, ‘this team averages 54 points a game, they only give up eight points a game, they’re the best thing.’ People were even saying South Pointe didn’t have a chance,” Herron said. “Nobody thinks you can win and they eat it up. They love it.”

The Stallions choked out Hartsville’s powerful rushing attack and won the first of two straight state championships.

Parks will know he’s on to something when he starts seeing the same thing in the Ridge View locker room from year to year. But the Stallions have won 113 games since beginning football in 2006; Ridge View has won 42 during the same period. The kind of success that sticks to jerseys and doesn’t leave when particular kids graduate doesn’t just bloom overnight.

Friday’s area games

Northwestern at Fort Mill (94.3 FM)

Nation Ford at Clover (107.1 FM)

Gaffney at Rock Hill (1340 AM)

Richland Northeast at York (89.5 FM)

Ridge View at South Pointe (104.1 FM)

Lancaster at Westwood (92.7 FM)

Indian Land at Chester

Lewisville at McBee

Timmonsville at Great Falls

*Games start at 7:30 p.m.

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