High School Football

HS Football Pivot: here’s how Rock Hill pulled off the biggest play of its season

Was this the biggest play of Rock Hill High’s 2018 football season?

The Herald’s Bret McCormick talks about Raphael Wright Jr.’s critical third and long catch that helped the Bearcats beat Northwestern on Oct. 25, 2018. McCormick also talks about Indian Land’s first home playoff game since 2011.
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The Herald’s Bret McCormick talks about Raphael Wright Jr.’s critical third and long catch that helped the Bearcats beat Northwestern on Oct. 25, 2018. McCormick also talks about Indian Land’s first home playoff game since 2011.

The biggest play of Rock Hill’s season so far? Yes.

Not sure if Raphael Wright Jr.’s third and long catch during the Rock Hill-Northwestern game last Thursday will rise to the level of earning an eternal nickname, like “The Catch” or something like that, but it was the biggest play of the Bearcats’ 2018 season so far. And the biggest play came from Wright, a senior who has had an interesting career for the Bearcats, occasionally switching positions and spending much of his time wearing the garnet and black in a supporting role. He entered the Northwestern game with six catches this season. To make the biggest play in a first win over the rival Trojans in nine games was reward enough for Wright Jr.

“Man, it means so much,” he said. “We’ve turned it around. I’m just ecstatic. I’m speechless. We just won!”

Even as Rock Hill smashed and pounded and ran its way to a 14-0 lead, the two game-changing plays in the fourth quarter were passes. First, Hayden Jackson’s throw to Antonio Barber for a 64-yard touchdown during which the junior pass-catcher showed why he’s committed to an SEC school. Near the end of the run, it looked like Northwestern tacklers thought Barber would just ease out of bounds after a big gain, but he was greedy for the score and barged his way into the end zone, negating the Trojans’ momentum for a bit.

Then came Wright’s catch. The score was tied at 21 and Rock Hill false-started on consecutive plays. The Bearcats were collapsing in real-time. But Barber ran a short route and three Trojan defenders flowed toward him. Wright ran a crossing pattern behind Barber and snagged Jackson’s throw even with Northwestern cornerback Fentrell Cypress, the Virginia commitment, draped on his back. The Bearcats finished the drive with a Narii Gaither touchdown and claimed a first region and city championship since 2009.

“We’re on top now,” Wright Jr. said, grinning.

The Rock Hill Bearcats snapped an eight-game losing streak to the Northwestern Trojans Friday, Oct. 25 in Rock Hill. The Bearcats won their first city championship title since 2009.

Indian Land decision to play brutal non-region schedule paying off

Can Indian Land win a playoff game for the first time since 2005 when the Warriors were competing in the 1A classification?

Horatio Blades’ crew was 2-5 but won its last three games to finish second in Region 4-3A. The Warriors host Crescent on Nov. 9. and should have no unusual nerves facing the Tigers. That’s because there is an immense gulf between Indian Land (5-5) and Crescent’s schedule strengths.

The teams Crescent beat in its region were a combined 6-24 this season and the Tigers’ three non-region victories came against 1A and 2A teams.

Indian Land’s region wins came against teams that were a combined 10-19. But in non-region action the Warriors beat Buford, which won Region 4-2A, and York, which competes for a 4A region title Monday night. The 4A and 5A teams that beat Indian Land in non-region action finished the regular season with a 27-14 total record. All six of Indian Land’s non-region opponents made the playoffs.

The average enrollment of Indian Land’s non-region opponents is 1,481. Crescent’s was 568. No question that Indian Land should be more battle tested than Crescent come Nov. 9.

Get to know more about Indian Land High School (S.C.) linebacker/safety Dorian Williams, who committed to Coastal Carolina over the summer. Williams is a modern defender, tough and mobile. He also likes to sing.

Upper State playoff brackets taking shape

Playoff brackets in the Upper State are taking form with most teams’ regular seasons already completed. Here’s an idea of who local teams will play in the first round:

5A: 3-5A No. 1 seed Rock Hill will host Laurens (Friday, Nov. 9), No. 2 seed Northwestern will host Boiling Springs (Thursday, Nov. 8), and Nation Ford will travel to Blythewood on Nov. 9.

5A bracket

4A: The 3-4A No. 1 seed (the winner of Monday night’s York-South Pointe game) will host an at-large team, the No. 2 seed (the loser of York-South Pointe) will host Orangeburg-Wilkinson, while Lancaster, the No. 4 seed from the region, travels to Region 4-4A No. 1 seed, which at the moment would be A.C. Flora.

4A bracket

3A: Chester, the top seed from Region 4-3A, will host Liberty. Indian Land, which finished second in 4-3A, will host Crescent in the Warriors’ first home playoff game since 2011.

3A bracket

Looking ahead

  • A recuperative week ahead for every playoff-bound team in The Herald’s coverage area, including a second straight idle week for Chester, which had a bye last week. Teams in the Lower State conclude their regular season this coming Friday, thanks to a South Carolina High School League extension of the regular season because of Hurricane Florence. Rock Hill-York was the only game scheduled in our area for Nov. 2, but has been called off with neither side seeing much point in playing the non-region game.
  • (UPDATED) Clover’s hopes of a shot at one of the two 5A state playoff at-large berths died over the weekend. Spring Valley and Hillcrest are in pole positions to grab the two spots that go to teams that didn’t automatically qualify for the playoffs from their region. Clover finished fourth in Region 3-5A, which would have been good for a playoff spot last season, but 3-5A lost a playoff berth during the offseason when several of the eight-team 5A regions complained that 80 percent of 3-5A shouldn’t be making the playoffs.

Clover handled Fort Mill in its regular season finale high school football game Oct. 25, 2018, and Blue Eagles coach Brian Lane made his case for why Clover should make the SCHSL 5A state playoffs as a wildcard.