They’ve been friends since they were 6 years old, running around in their grandmas’ yards.
You’d think that Joe Ervin and Marice Whitlock would have some cool handshake or special celebration by now, but, frankly, the touchdowns have come too thick and too fast this fall, leaving no time for celebrating.
“We tried to but they don’t come out too good,” Whitlock said.
High school football fans wondered where South Pointe would get explosive plays from this season, after star QB Derion Kendrick and other talents graduated. Ervin and Whitlock have easily picked up the slack, putting the Stallions right back in position for another run at a state title, while shushing the doubters.
“We took it on a personal level,” said Whitlock, “but at the same time not let it get to us.”
“We believe in our team,” said Ervin. “We knew we have something special.”
The duo has contributed a huge chunk of South Pointe’s offensive production.
Ervin has rushed for over 1,700 yards and 22 touchdowns. He’s topped 100 yards on the ground in nine of 11 games, and also has 17 catches. There is more variety in Whitlock’s output. He’s rushed for 504 yards and eight touchdowns, caught 43 passes for 845 yards and seven touchdowns, and amassed 273 yards and another score on kick returns.
Against Walhalla last week in the first round of the 4A playoffs, Whitlock and Ervin combined for 473 total yards and seven touchdowns in a blowout win that commenced the Stallions’ pursuit of a state record fifth straight championship.
“They’re that guy that South Pointe is known for,” said Herron, “that can all the sudden break away. I’ve got to deal with them for four years and they are two excellent kids. That’s been the best part.”
Ervin watched Hudl clips of himself running the football last season and would grimace when he went down at a tackler’s first contact. He weighed 167 pounds when the Stallions won their fourth title in a row 11 months ago and knew he needed more mass and more speed if he was to reach the level he thought possible.
Fast forward almost a year and Ervin looks like a different person. He’s 5-foot-10, 185 pounds of tackle-breaking terror, blasting through opposing defenders as if they were a turnstile and he was running late for his subway train. His tree trunk legs keep pumping, churning out yards after contact. And his speed has improved after he spent the spring sprinting with the track and field team.
“Now, I’m just immune to it,” Ervin said of contact. “I know what I can do.”
The work is paying off. The only lament is that many colleges evaluated Ervin last season. South Pointe coaches hope they follow Kansas State’s lead and come back around for another look. Ervin is trying to line up a visit to the Big 12 school in December after he received a scholarship offer from Wildcat coaches.
“We kind of had an inkling that as he played his senior year he would play his way into better opportunities,” said South Pointe offensive coordinator Jason McManus.
South Pointe coaches also knew that Ervin and Whitlock had to be on the field at the same time this season. That meant one of them had to move from running back, and it was Whitlock that became the Stallions’ Swiss Army Knife, lining up all over formations, catching passes and sweeps, and still running the ball out of the backfield at times when his buddy takes a break.
“He’s been everything we thought he could be, and probably better,” said McManus. “Pretty much just lining up wherever needed.”
Herron said that, instead of worrying about touches and carries, the pair cheer for each other without question, a supportive and loving vibe that bleeds out through the team and is part of why the 2018 team’s chemistry is very strong.
Though his position changed, Whitlock, who is 5-foot-7, about 170 pounds, approaches wide receiver as if he was a running back. His routes may not be the most crisp and he tends to run through tackles instead of wiggling past tacklers. But he’s a Maserati sports car in open space. And he also never complained about switching positions, in fact said he likes his new role.
McManus said that if Whitlock was four or five inches taller, he’d be an SEC recruit. He does have an offer from Newberry.
“He’s one of the most dynamic players we’ve had here,” said McManus. “I think ultimately it’s gonna come down to someone needs to take a chance on a guy that’s undersized. But his heart, his toughness, his versatility, his speed is something that a lot of people need to take notice of.”
McManus said that the 2018 Stallion offense has answered that big question entering the season, duplicating last season’s output to this point. A big reason? Ervin and Whitlock have combined for 38 touchdowns and 14 plays of 50 yards or longer.
“They’ve been able to give us those explosive plays that D.K. did,” said McManus.
Ervin and Whitlock met at Oakdale Elementary School and fast became friends. They live near each other and their grandmothers were neighbors so there was plenty of running around, rough-housing and football to play. Ervin and Whitlock both went to Saluda Trail Middle School, where Ervin was a receiver and Whitlock the QB.
They still hang out almost everyday. They play video games, eat together, go for a drive, or just chill. And they win together too.
“He’s more like family,” said Whitlock. “We’re not really related but we’re related. You know how that’ll be.”