High School Football

Pivot: Clover needs to take advantage of region’s struggles, including Northwestern’s

Could Northwestern get its first win of the season? Ridge View wasn’t so open to the idea

Northwestern hosted Ridge View High School (S.C.) in football action Sept. 6, 2018 in Rock Hill. Check out highlights from the game and hear from both coaches, James Martin and Perry Parks.
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Northwestern hosted Ridge View High School (S.C.) in football action Sept. 6, 2018 in Rock Hill. Check out highlights from the game and hear from both coaches, James Martin and Perry Parks.

Trojan trouble

It’s not really going out on a thin limb to say the 0-4 Northwestern Trojans football is in a tough spot. One thing that’s jumped out is the Trojans’ fourth quarter fades. James Martin’s team has been outscored 47-7 in the fourth quarter this season, with the team getting its first touchdown in the final period of a game in 2018 against Ridge View. That score tied the game 10 all, before Ridge View scored the last 10 points to get the win last Thursday.

What’s causing the Trojans’ fourth quarter collapses? Are they out of shape? Is the defense on the field too long? Do the players fall apart when something bad happens? Is it some combination of all of that? It’s an imperative question for Martin to answer in the next few weeks.

READ: Northwestern fell to 0-4. Here’s how it happened.

Clover should be thinking region title

Sure, every team begins the season thinking it can win its region. But as the campaign wears on, the reality of those dreams either fades or sharpens, at least within the camp. Four games into the 2018 season, here is the increasingly sharp reality for Clover football: the Blue Eagles can win Region 3-5A in Brian Lane’s second year as the head coach.

Clover showed a balanced and complete team Friday night against South Point. Sure, they have their shortcomings -- spats of turnovers, inexperience with winning -- but they have a a strong running game and an improving passing attack, thanks to QB Gabe Carroll. The talented wide receivers -- Zion Robbins, Heze Massey, Blackmon Huckabee and Jaylin Lane -- were already there.

The biggest difference this year is the defense. It’s mean and athletic, led by linebacker Hayden Johnson, hitting machine Shon Brown and a pretty good secondary, including Jay Falls and L.A. Adams and some other good ones.

It’s clear that the rest of Region 3-5A is up for grabs. Clover needs to take advantage.

READ: defensive adjustment leads to Clover’s third win

Offensive offenses

For much of my time at The Herald (I arrived in July, 2012), our area has been known for juggernaut offenses. Each year, multiple teams have averaged over 40 points per game, with several more over 30.

Not so this season. The two best offensive teams in our area -- Chester and Fort Mill -- run the ball far more than they throw it, but few other teams seem to have made the adjustment to their personnel. There aren’t many high-level QBs around this season and that’s had a very negative impact on the many spread-based offensive schemes that are predicated first and foremost on having a QB that is capable of reading defenses and making throws, and doing it quickly and cleanly.

Other teams in the three counties have a different fatal flaw that’s hampering them, whether it’s a sieve-like offensive line or a lack of play-making wide receivers, or even the adjustment to a first-year play-caller. Six of the 12 teams The Herald covers average 21 points per game, or less.

Looking ahead

  • Doozy of a game this Friday down in Chester, where the 4-0 Cyclones host the 4-0 Lancaster Bruins. Both of these teams are driven forward by blunt, no frills rushing offenses, but their defenses have been solid too. Chester entered the season as a favorite to win its league, Region 4-3A, but the feeling that Lancaster has a shot in its league, Region 3-4A, is definitely growing. This will be another litmus test for the Lancaster skeptics against a Chester squad that has shown it’s not scared of teams from any classification.
  • An opportunity to see a future college QB from out of the area on Friday night. Greenville’s Davis Beville is a tall, strong-armed QB committed to Pitt that will lead the Red Raiders against South Pointe in one of the Stallions’ toughest non-region games. Greenville is coming off a heartbreaking 25-24 loss to Belton-Honea Path, while South Pointe should be physically fresh and ready to go after a bye week.
  • There is the developing question of whether there will be any football games at all this weekend. Hurricane Florence’s track has her headed right toward the South Carolina/North Carolina border. High school administrators, athletic directors and coaches will certainly have to keep an eye on this storm. Read more about Hurricane Florence here and check back with The Herald all week for the latest news on the storm.