Reading off Derion Kendrick’s accomplishments at South Pointe’s Signing Day ceremony on Dec. 20, Stallions football coach Strait Herron paused.
“I’m getting depressed,” he said, thinking about all the talent, production and success he was losing with Kendrick headed off to Clemson in a few weeks.
Kendrick will graduate from South Pointe with arguably the greatest high school football legacy in Rock Hill’s history. He won four state championships in as many years, one of the best runs in the state’s history, winning the most recent earlier this month. The Herald’s All-Area player of the year award isn’t a lifetime achievement award, but that doesn’t matter because Kendrick saved his best for last.
Kendrick threw for 2,683 yards and 31 touchdowns, and ran for 1,196 yards and 19 more scores. He played his best in the biggest games. Against Northwestern, Buford (Ga.), Shelby (N.C.), Greer and Hartsville, Kendrick averaged 15-of-21 passing for 188 yards and two TDs and 11 carries for 121 yards and more than a touchdown per game. Kendrick was the best player on the field every game this season and he never let his teammates down.
Rock Hill High coach Bubba Pittman will share Herron’s pain when his standout junior linebacker Narii Gaither graduates in 2019.
Gaither is the defensive player of the year. He fought off a worthy candidate in South Pointe’s Deangelo Huskey, who, like Gaither, was an undersized linebacker always right near the football making plays. Their numbers weren’t too dissimilar, notable given that Gaither played four fewer games than Huskey.
Gaither played on both sides of the ball, which makes his stats even more impressive. A heat-seeking missile on defense, he recorded plenty of tackles, but also made things happen for the Bearcat defense with two interceptions, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two blocked kicks.
South Pointe’s Strait Herron is The Herald’s coach of the year. Of course, his 2017 team was loaded with talent, but it took some slick maneuvering to get everyone pulling in the same direction. Looking back, Herron describing his team as “The Prima Donna Tour” back in August could have backfired. Instead, it motivated an elite group of players to go 15-0 and win the school’s fourth state title, while finishing with several top-10 national rankings.
Offensive player of the year: Derion Kendrick, South Pointe
Defensive player of the year: Narii Gaither, Rock Hill
Coach of the year: Strait Herron, South Pointe
First team All-Area
WR - Jamario Holley, Northwestern - junior receiver had a productive 11th grade campaign, making 75 catches for 1,178 yards and 18 touchdowns, and also returning a kickoff and a punt each for a touchdown. Holley averaged 28.5 yards per kick return and 18 yards per punt return and was named Region 4-5A player of the year.
WR - Ladarius Allison, York - Allison had a breakout junior season, making 66 catches for 1,093 yards and seven touchdowns, while adding three rushing touchdowns, two kick return scores and an interception return for another touchdown. The All-Region 3-4A selection made two interceptions in spot defensive back duty and was a threat in all three phases of the game.
WR - Heze Massey, Clover - Massey’s first season of varsity high school football went pretty well. The junior made 75 catches for 1,075 yards and five touchdowns, breaking a pair of school records and earning All-Region 4-5A honors.
RB - Desmond Buchanan, Rock Hill - Buchanan carried the Bearcats’ offense at times this season, rushing for 1,306 yards and 10 touchdowns. The senior averaged 119 yards per game and was named All-Region 4-5A.
RB - Quentin Sanders, Lewisville - Sanders was an unstoppable force at the 1A level. The senior carried the ball 225 times for 1,681 yards and 23 touchdowns, caught 28 passes for 584 yards and eight touchdowns and also threw two touchdown passes and returned a kickoff for another score. The FBS recruit had 33 plays of 20 yards or more this fall.
QB - Derion Kendrick, South Pointe - Clemson mid-year enrollee won a pile of awards. He was named Tri-County 4A/5A offensive player of the year, South Carolina Football Coaches Association 4A Upper State offensive back of the year, Region 3-4A player of the year, and South Carolina Gatorade Football Player of the Year, as well as earning selection to the Shrine Bowl and Army All-American game. Kendrick ran for 1,196 yards and 19 touchdowns, averaging 9.9 yards per carry, and completed 72.5 percent of his 258 passes for 2,683 yards and 31 touchdowns with just six interceptions.
OL - Jake Locklear, Indian Land - senior with FCS and FBS recruiting looks recorded 53 knockdown blocks and 28 pancakes, grading out at 93 percent and earning All-Region 4-3A honors.
OL - Jackson Chappell, South Pointe - junior center with FBS recruiting interest notched 23 pancake blocks for the Stallions. He didn’t allow a sack all season, while making all of the team’s blocking calls.
OL - Wyatt Tunall, Chester - junior offensive tackle graded 81 percent for the year with 38 knockdowns to earn All-Region 4-3A honors. Tunall has offers from Appalachian State and Troy and helped Chester’s offense amass 5,253 total yards and average 42 points per game.
OL - Hunter Sine, York - senior graded 84 percent for the season, with 41 knockdown blocks and just one sack allowed the whole fall.
OL - Kevius Barnes, Lancaster - North-South all-star graded 92 percent for the season, with 18 pancake blocks and 12 knockdowns.
ATH - John Erby, Chester - Erby was great for the Cyclones, doing some of everything. A likely slot receiver in college football, Erby completed 137-of-227 passes for 2,051 yards and 21 touchdowns and ran for 1,000 yards and 16 touchdowns as the team’s quarterback. The senior also handled all kicking duties, punting 19 times for a 37-yard average and making 27-of-34 extra points. He also made a defensive interception and was named Region 4-3A player of the year.
DL - Eli Adams, South Pointe - Shrine Bowler and Virginia Tech signee made 96 tackles with 17 sacks and 16 tackles-for-loss. Adams had 27 QB pressures, recovered two fumbles, forced another, and had a defensive touchdown. He was also named All-Region 3-4A.
DL - Josh Belk, Lewisville - Clemson-bound defensive tackle and Army All-American made 115 tackles, including 34 for a loss, 11 sacks and forced seven fumbles.
DL - Immanuel Bush, Lancaster - destructive sophomore was busy on the Bruins’ defensive line, notching 77 tackles, with 14 for a loss, recording 14 sacks, six forced fumbles, two blocked punts and a blocked extra point.
LB - Deangelo Huskey, South Pointe - senior was everywhere on the field for the Stallion D, making 148 tackles, with 20 for a loss. He had six sacks, four interceptions, three pass break-ups and two defensive touchdowns. Huskey made All-Region 3-4A.
LB - Narii Gaither, Rock Hill - junior linebacker made 123 tackles (85 solo efforts), with 19 for a loss, 4.5 sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two blocked kicks. Gaither scored a defensive touchdown and also played regularly on offense, running the ball 44 times for a 5.2 yard-per carry average. He was named the Tri-County 4A/5A defensive player of the year and earned All-Region 4-5A honors.
LB - Michael Peterson, Nation Ford - the area’s top tackler as a junior, Peterson made 150 stops, including 14 for a loss. The All-Region 4-5A selection broke up four passes, recovered a fumble and recorded one sack and four QB pressures.
LB - B.J. Davis, South Pointe - North-South all-star made 89 tackles, intercepted four passes, made three sacks and recorded six QB pressures and six pass break-ups, indicative of his versatility in the Stallions’ defense. The South Carolina State commitment also had nine tackles-for-loss, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and was an All-Region 3-4A pick.
DB - Jamari Currence, South Pointe - the James Madison signee wasn’t tested often but usually won when he was. Currence led the area with 18 pass break-ups, recorded 76 tackles, with five for a loss, and made three interceptions. The All-Region 3-4 pick also scored a defensive touchdown.
DB - Tahj Reid-Stanley, York - Shrine Bowl selection made 65 tackles, broke up 14 passes, recorded four tackles-for-loss and an interception. Also an All-Region 3-4A pick as a senior.
DB - Mikial Fourney, Lewisville - Fourney, who has FCS recruiting interest, made 115 tackles, with 28 for a loss, recorded 11 sacks, forced four fumbles and intercepted a pass. He also caught 33 passes for 534 yards and four touchdowns on offense in a busy senior season.
DB - Tim Smith, Nation Ford - senior safety made 67 tackles, led the area with six interceptions, and recovered two fumbles. He also blocked a kick and broke up four passes, earning All-Region 4-5A honors.
P/K - B.T. Potter, South Pointe - Army All-American and Clemson signee hit 117 of 126 kickoffs for touchbacks, a huge defensive weapon for the Stallions. He made 77-of-81 extra points and 12-of-17 field goals, with a long of 45 yards. He also punted 31 times for a 37.6-yard average, with 10 downed inside the 20-yard line. Potter made All-Region 3-4A and was also selected to play in the Polynesian Bowl in Hawaii.
WR - Jordan Starkes, Northwestern - North-South all-star and All-Region 4-5A senior caught 70 passes for 846 yards and seven touchdowns, and also returned a punt for a touchdown.
WR - Scott Robinson Jr., South Pointe - the South Carolina State commitment made 53 catches for 910 yards and eight touchdowns and earned All-Region 3-4A honors.
WR - Quay Hardin, Chester - athletic senior was a force on both sides of the ball, making 37 catches for 685 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also averaged 23.6 yards on kick returns and made 60 tackles as a defensive back. Hardin was named All-Region 4-3A.
RB - Pha’Leak Brown, Chester - Brown’s numbers would have been much bigger if he hadn’t missed three games. He still ran the ball 135 times for 1,178 yards and 14 touchdowns.
RB - Joe Ervin, South Pointe - All-Region 3-4A junior fumbled just once on 157 carries. Ervin ran for 1,276 yards and 16 touchdowns, averaging 8.1 yards per touch.
QB - Dustin Noller, Northwestern - sophomore QB had a strong first season of varsity football, completing 268-of-405 passes for 3,120 yards and 30 touchdowns. Noller threw 13 interceptions in 12 games, but also ran for five touchdowns in 12 starts.
OL - Cody Thomas, York - senior played center and guard, grading 80 percent with 41 knockdown blocks and just two sacks allowed all season. Thomas was an All-Region 3-4A pick.
OL - K.D. Canaty, Northwestern - senior with lots of college recruiting interest graded 83 percent with 19 pancakes, earned All-Region 4-5A and played in the Shrine Bowl.
OL - Jaydon Collins, South Pointe - senior made 26 pancake blocks for the Stallions’ high-powered offense. All-Region 3-4A pick.
OL - Trey Reed, Fort Mill - versatile senior had a really good year, grading 87 percent with 16 knockdowns and nine pancakes, and no sacks allowed.
OL - Jack Snowberger, Nation Ford - the Falcons’ offensive lineman of the year made All-Region 4-5A. Snowberger graded out 86 percent for the season after moving from guard to tackle. He allowed just one sack all year and only five QB hurries, while making 39 pancake blocks.
ATH - J.T. Sanders, York - senior had a productive season on both sides of the ball, focusing on defense in the first half of the season and running the ball more often in the second half. The All-Region 3-4A pick had 73 carries for 595 yards (8.2 yards per touch) and 15 touchdowns, to go with 63 tackles, nine tackles-for-loss, two sacks, two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
DL - Shamari Williams, York - tall senior defensive end had 77 tackles, with 18 for a loss, seven sacks, two deflected passes, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
DL - Jalen Pickett-Hicks, South Pointe - Pickett-Hicks made 98 tackles, with 11 for a loss, recorded 12 QB pressures and eight sacks and returned an interception for a defensive touchdown. The All-Region 3-4A senior also forced and recovered two fumbles.
DL - Chance Miller, Northwestern - North-South all-star made 70 tackles, with nine for a loss, 2.5 sacks and was named All-Region 4-5A.
LB - Robbie Csuhta, Indian Land - junior with FBS/FCS recruiting interest made 121 tackles, with 12 for a loss, forced three fumbles and recovered one, earning All-Region 4-3A recognition.
LB - Dondre Douglas, York - senior was a forceful pass-rusher, making 72 tackles and recording 12 tackles-for-loss, 10 QB pressures and eight sacks.
LB - Savion White, South Pointe - junior linebacker mirrored Huskey in that he was smaller than normal for the position, but extremely mobile as a defensive play-maker. White had 118 tackles, with 16 for a loss. He also had six QB pressures and an interception.
LB - Jaylen McFadden, Lewisville - senior linebacker had 129 tackles, with 21 for a loss, five sacks and two interceptions.
DB - Fentrell Cypress, Northwestern - All-Region 4-5A junior with FBS offers made 44 tackles, broke up 12 passes and intercepted three more, recovered a fumble and blocked a kick.
DB - La’dell Massey, Northwestern - All-Region 4-5A senior made 109 tackles, broke up four passes, forced two fumbles and intercepted two passes.
DB - Jordan Morris, Rock Hill - senior defensive back was a ball-hawk, making 49 tackles, breaking up nine passes and notching eight tackles-for-loss, four interceptions, two forced fumbles, two blocked kicks and a fumble recovery. Morris was named All-Region 4-5A.
DB - Jaylen Mahoney, South Pointe - Mahoney earned a reputation as a sure-handed open-field tackler as a junior. He finished with 85 tackles, 13 pass break-ups, six tackles-for-loss, three interceptions and a forced fumble and fumble recovery.
P/K - Skyler DeLong, Nation Ford - Army All-American and Alabama signee punted 63 times this fall for a 40.2-yard average with 16 downed inside the 20-yard line and five out of bounds. DeLong, who made All-Region 4-5A, also kicked 27-of-36 kickoffs for touchbacks and converted 2-of-5 field goals, including a 47-yard game-winner.
WR - Johnny Courtney, Lewisville - one of the area’s shiftiest players, Courtney missed three games but still caught 44 passes for 778 yards and seven touchdowns. The senior also rushed the ball 34 times for 208 yards and three touchdowns and had 442 combined yards on kickoff and punt returns.
WR - Steven Gilmore Jr., South Pointe - FBS-recruited senior caught 37 passes for 685 yards and 11 touchdowns, and was also dynamic on punt returns. Gilmore Jr. was named to the North-South all-star game, earning MVP honors and also made All-Region 3-4A.
WR - T.J. Hollis, Chester - All-Region 4-3A senior receiver missed a couple of games but still had 31 catches for 631 yards and six touchdowns, and also intercepted four passes while playing regularly on the defensive side of the ball.
RB - Stephen Oglesby, York - junior running back carried 148 times for 742 yards and nine touchdowns, despite splitting touches with other running backs. Named to All-Region 3-4A team.
RB - Marice Whitlock, South Pointe - on another team, Whitlock might have rushed for 1,200 yards this season. But the junior shared carries with Derion Kendrick and Joe Ervin and still ended up with 776 yards and 11 touchdowns on 94 carries. He lost just one fumble and averaged 8.3 yards per rush attempt.
QB - Garrett Miller, Clover - senior QB threw for 2,523 yards and 14 touchdowns, breaking six school passing records and earning All-Region 4-5A honors.
OL - Devin Cannon, Rock Hill - solid senior year for Cannon, who is starting to pick up some college recruiting interest. He graded 86 percent with 17 knockdowns while playing multiple positions across the Bearcats’ front line.
OL - Carson Murray, Rock Hill - sophomore center had a great first campaign of varsity action, grading 85 percent with 21 knockdowns and starting all 11 games.
OL - Josiah Ivey, Northwestern - Ivey graded 82 percent with 21 pancakes as a senior.
OL - Keyshawn Freeman, South Pointe - senior offensive lineman made 15 pancakes and was one of South Pointe’s best blockers.
OL - Fred Reid, Lancaster - junior graded 90 percent with 14 pancake blocks and nine knockdowns.
ATH - Ryan Heriot, Fort Mill - North-South all-star had 952 total yards of offense and seven touchdowns, while making 61 tackles and intercepting two passes. Heriot rarely came off the field for the Yellow Jackets.
DL - Ashten Schaufert, Nation Ford - All-Region 4-5A pick had 67 tackles, with 13 for a loss and seven sacks as a junior.
DL - Logan Hicks, Rock Hill - junior defensive tackle made All-Region 4-5A after notching 51 tackles with 9.5 for a loss, two sacks and a forced fumble and fumble recovery.
DL - Kenshu Her, Clover - senior nose guard made 61 solo tackles and anchored the Blue Eagles’ defensive front.
LB - Dwayne Davis, South Pointe - stout tackling machine in the middle for South Pointe made 142 tackles, with six or a loss and 4.5 sacks.
LB - Dorrien Bagley, Chester - rangy senior finished with 97 tackles, intercepted two passes and made All-Region 4-3A.
LB - Hayden Johnson, Clover - promising sophomore linebacker made 94 tackles and earned All-Region 4-5A honors.
LB - Jake Ajemian, Fort Mill - senior made 88 tackles, with five for a loss and a sack, and defended three passes and recovered two fumbles.
DB - Nick Ervin, Rock Hill - Ervin made a ton of plays as a junior, recording 75 tackles, with three for a loss, breaking up five passes, making three interceptions, recovering three fumbles and forcing two.
DB - Justin Reese, South Pointe - the senior defensive back often played near the line of scrimmage, which helped him record 13.5 tackles-for-loss. Reese had 72 tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles and a defensive touchdown.
DB - Max Necklen, York - junior had 80 tackles, broke up four passes and intercepted four more, made two tackles-for-loss and forced a fumble.
DB - Anthony Jackson, Rock Hill - sophomore made 42 tackles and broke up 12 passes. The All-Region 4-5A selection also intercepted two passes.
P/K - Nick Sciba, Clover - Wake Forest commit made 8-of-11 field goals for the Blue Eagles. Sciba punted 26 times for a 38.7-yard average, with seven downed inside the 20-yard line and hit 34 of 49 kickoffs for touchbacks.