High School Football

Northwestern adapts offense, defense; results the same

Northwestern’s Tyler Morgan celebrates after scoring the Trojans’ first score of the game.
Northwestern’s Tyler Morgan celebrates after scoring the Trojans’ first score of the game. Special to The Herald

Some coaches try to force a square peg into a round hole. Northwestern coach Kyle Richardson is not among them.

This year's version of the Trojans' Air Raid offense was a different variation of recent years. And this year's state champion Northwestern squad as a whole was a little different too.

The Trojans have a reputation of fun-n-gun, sling it around the yard, and outscore people. But the 2015 version was a team, and a coach, that was willing to give it to you however you wanted to take it.

And they did it with a killer instinct that showed they wanted to not only jump on you offensively and bury you, but the Trojan defense didn't want to give you anything either.

"We have to do that,” said offensive lineman Demontre Buckson. “No lead is safe."

The defense relentlessly punished on offense and smothered on defense.

Northwestern only played three close games all season. This is a school with a reputation in the 1990s for pitching shutouts on defense. Their 1993 state championship victory over Gaffney was 20-0. Their most recent before Saturday’s title was 62-35 over Stratford in 2013.

They have put up points with the likes of Justin Worley and Mason Rudolph, but last year without that type of signal-caller, Richardson switched to former receiver Dupree Hart at quarterback out of necessity.

This season, with Hart graduated and two new field generals at the start of the season, Richardson adapted, using punishing junior running back Jerry Howard. The Trojans still were extremely effective through the air, but they threw it 51 percent of the time and ran it 49 percent.

The defense was stingy like years past with junior tight end Logan Rudolph switching to defensive end and turning into a force that is being recruited nationwide.

“It's the best possible change for me being able to produce on defense,” Rudolph said afterward. “It just feels good to be able to bring it back to Rock Hill.”

Paired with fellow end Trae'von Hinton, those two lived in opposing backfields and tormented offenses all year long.

Northwestern produced its fifth state title and third in six seasons, by using a little bit of the new-school video game age offense and a little of your father's Trojan defense. Doing it anyway necessary, but producing the same results.

Northwestern cruised to a big halftime lead en route to a 63-13 demolition of Lexington in Saturday's 4A Division II state title football game.

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