High School Football

High school football pivot: 3 things learned Aug. 24, 3 things to watch Aug. 31

Rock Hill breaks through

There were undoubtedly comments questioning the amount of celebration from Rock Hill’s football team after it beat South Pointe for the first time since 2009 on Friday night. First, it’s high school football, so who cares if a team celebrates a big win -- and this was a big win -- as long as it’s done in a respectful manner?

Second, this was a big win for the Bearcats, one that had been talked about, thought about, longed for, for at least five or six years. It’s easily the biggest win for Rock Hill under head coach Bubba Pittman, who was doused with ice while talking to his team afterward.

Rock Hill’s biggest prospect, junior wide receiver Antonio Barber, had a game that summed up the Bearcats’ performance. He dropped an early pass when he was wide open on the sideline, then tried to do too much on a kickoff return in the third quarter. He ran backwards and sideways for about 20 yards, before getting dragged down in the end zone for a safety. It was an embarrassing moment for the Tennessee commitment, who said he lost track of where he was on the field.

But he shook off both goofs, catching a 22-yard touchdown in the second quarter, and of course, hauling in the 39-yard TD pass from Hayden Jackson with 44 seconds left that won the game. On both scores, Barber got himself wide open.

“I just had to make up for that play, I let my team down,” said Barber, whose grandmother passed away earlier in the week.

Then, Anthony Jackson, Barber’s classmate and another big Bearcat prospect, picked off South Pointe’s QB on one of the final plays of the game to clinch the win. Pittman had talked explicitly about Jackson turning pass breakups -- he had double digit PBUs last year -- into turnovers. Maybe Barber’s resiliency, and Jackson’s completed interception, are indicative of Rock Hill High’s football growth.

READ: How Rock Hill broke an eight-game losing skid to rival South Pointe

No pretense with Chester

No team in The Herald’s 12-team coverage area more closely embodies its head coach than Chester. Victor Floyd is blunt, doesn’t hold back, especially in off-the-record conversations. His 2018 team is equally blunt on the field. As the Chester News Reporter’s Travis Jenkins put it, there is no pretense about what the No. 3-ranked Cyclones are trying to do: run it down the opponent’s throat.

The Cyclones have 844 rushing yards in the first two games. Chester has three capable ball-carriers -- Stan Mills, Emmanuel Wright and Pha’Leak Brown -- but leaned on Brown against 5A Fort Mill last Friday. He ran for 205 yards and shined as the lead man, something he’s rarely been afforded the chance to do at Chester, because of Floyd’s reliance on multiple backs to split the load. Brown’s 61-yard TD in the fourth quarter proved the difference in a 28-20 win.

With all five offensive line starters back, the Cyclones should pile up some monster rushing numbers this season. A deep run in the 3A state playoffs should swell those numbers further.

READ: Chester runs past Fort Mill (recap)

Running back gives Nation Ford another go-to guy

Nation Ford junior running back Nathan Mahaffey has grabbed attention in the first two games of 2018. Friday against Conway, he ran for over 100 yards for the second straight game and scored a pair of TDs, one a run and another a catch and run. The Falcons are still trying to figure out their QB situation, but Mahaffey gives them a relief valve while that gets worked out. It’ll be interesting to see what he can do this coming week against South Pointe, a third straight difficult opponent for Nation Ford.

Looking ahead

  • Great start for Clover so far. The Blue Eagles are 2-0, with 61 points scored and only 24 allowed. They’ll get their second tough test of the season this coming week against Hunter Huss, a Gastonia program that has been building the last few years. James McKoy’s Huss won 18 games the last two seasons combined, with at least one playoff win in the North Carolina 2A postseason both years. Huss has a highly-recruited 6-foot-3 wide receiver, Tony Davis, and should offer a considerable challenge for Clover’s constantly improving defense.
  • This Friday’s meeting could be the closest Great Falls-Lewisville game in several years. The 0-2 Lions are mired in a tough start to 2018, a combination of talent graduation, injuries and suspensions depleting their ranks. Great Falls broke its 19-game losing streak in the season-opener and has a very young team that Scotty Steen is trying to build toward a brighter and more stable future. Lewisville’s 13-9 win over the Red Devils in 2014 was the closest recent game between these two. The Lions won the last three by a combined 152-13 score. Great Falls last beat Lewisville in 2013.
  • Rock Hill-Chester as the game of the week? Yes. Friday’s game will be a measuring stick for Rock Hill’s mental maturity. Can they mvoe past the joy of beating South Pointe and overcome another talented, state-ranked team, in Chester? It’s only a statement win if another one follows it up. There are big questions for Chester, too. Can the Cyclones produce another game-winning rushing performance, but this time against a more athletic, football-hunting Bearcats defense? Chester showed some guts overcoming a 14-point deficit to beat 5A Fort Mill.