With just under 10 minutes left in the third quarter, Jackson Roberson received a snap in the shotgun and bounced in the pocket.
Roberson, a junior, didn’t start the first two games of the season. But here he was on Friday night in District Three Stadium, the game in his control.
His offense was 35 yards from the end zone; his team was up, 15-6, against Chester — the 3A defending state champions that hadn’t lost in 17 games.
Roberson surveyed the field, swayed left and lofted a pass into the end zone. His intended receiver, Eliel Cuesta, skied over the smaller defensive back covering him and came down with the ball.
Touchdown. 21-6, Rock Hill.
The game’s margin would never get any closer. And Rock Hill won it’s first game of the season, 43-12.
Head coach Bubba Pittman said the two quarterbacks — Roberson and senior quarterback Jordan Thurmond — had been battling all season long.
“It’s been a situation where they compete with each other in practice every week, and you know, we’re just trying to figure out which one has the hot hand,” Pittman said. “Tonight, Jackson played really well. He managed the offense really well, made some big throws at times when we needed them. But I’m also really proud of Jordan, who had a big drive, led us down for a touchdown.
“Both of those guys are going to contribute to us this year, and they pull for each other, so I’m real proud of them for that.”
Neither team started fast. The first three possessions ended in punts. The only score in the first quarter came in the form of an Ethan Dutton 38-yard field goal.
Chester soon responded with a 22-yard touchdown rush from running back Stan Mills.
But Rock Hill’s size on the line and a string of Chester mistakes started to break the game open.
First, Bearcat junior running back Tommy Neff ran in an 8-yard touchdown. Then, a Chester mishandled snap in the end zone on a punt turned into a Rock Hill safety.
Then, quarterback Roberson’s toss in the third quarter and three more Rock Hill touchdowns put the proverbial nail in Chester’s coffin.
“Now the streak is over; they see that they can be beaten; they saw how bad we can play,” Chester head coach Victor Floyd said. “We just got to regroup and get better.”
The Cyclones incurred 10 penalties for 75 yards.
“Tonight, we were pretty bad in all three phases,” Floyd said. “I hate to be so generic, but that’s pretty much the gist of it.”
Chester was led by quarterback Zan Dunham, who was 9-17 passing for 123 yards and a touchdown; running back Stan Mills, who had 13 carries for 73 yards and a touchdown; and receiver Ly’Terrence Mills, who added three catches for 65 yards and a touchdown.
Rock Hill was led by quarterback Roberson, who threw 15-for-23 for 221 yards and a touchdown, and running back Tommy Neff, who finished with 80 yards and a touchdown rushing.
Friday night’s results from District Three Stadium were significant in a few respects. Paramount to all: Chester’s winning streak came to an end — and, for the Bearcats, a “huge monkey” was lifted off their backs.
“Hey man,” Roberson said with a smile when asked what it meant to get his team’s first win.
“We’re just getting started.”