Rock Hill’s defense was the strength of a two-win team last year. Eight starters graduated, including much of the front seven, but senior linebacker and college recruit Kendrick Hicks is back and will be an important contributor; likewise for his brother, sophomore Logan Hicks, who will anchor the middle of a new-look defensive line.
Corner Nick Truesdale returns in the secondary, along with safeties Chesia Coleman and Jordan Morris, but the Bearcats will need younger, untested players to emerge quickly at linebacker and up front.
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Offensively, Bubba Pittman’s squad is more settled. Senior QB Dre Robinson gets the nod under center after playing extensively last season. Running back Des Buchanan is a good-sized junior that could give Rock Hill more semblance of a running game this fall. He’ll be escorted by five senior offensive linemen, including three that started last season, Tim Washington, Alex Melton and Tre Payne.
South Pointe transfer Qua Brice should get the chance to be an offensive factor for the Bearcats as a receiver and all-around athlete, along with returning slot man Kenny Agurs and well-built outside guy Eric Stroud, who coaches say could be a college prospect if he seizes the opportunity. A slew of untested ninth, 10th and 11th graders are competing for playing time at receiver.
Heading into the season, very little appears to separate Fort Mill, Nation Ford, Clover and Rock Hill, the other four teams in Region 4-5A outside of favorite Northwestern. Rock Hill has a brutal schedule but its players and coaches need to keep in mind that four out of five teams from the region make the 5A postseason.
Returning starters: 6 offense, 3 defense
Key returning players: Jr. WR Eric Stroud; Sr. QB Dre Robinson; Jr. RB Des Buchanan; Sr. OL Alex Melton; Sr. OL Tre Payne; Sr. LB Kendrick Hicks; Sr. DB Nick Truesdale; Sr. LB Jamaal Smith; Sr. DB Chesia Coleman; Sr. WR Kenny Agurs; Jr. WR Tay Marks; Sr. Tim Washington; Soph. DT Logan Hicks; Sr. K Zhenya Deller.
Coach Bubba Pittman (3rd year)
Career record 6-16
Assistant coaching staff Joey Fowler, offensive line; Mike Biddix, defensive coordinator; Chris Price, linebackers; Jym Jollie, offensive line; Anthony McFadden, wide receivers; Tim Sawyer, wide receivers; Eric Park, running backs; Mike Melton, defensive line; Wardell Rouse, linebackers; Tim Jones, linebackers; Tony Watkins, defensive backs.
Last season 2-9
Last 10 years combined 52-67 (43.6 percent)
School state championships 5 (1944, 1945, 1952, 2002, 2004)
August 19 at Blythewood*; 26 York*
September 2 at South Pointe*; 9 Boiling Springs*; 16 at Dorman*; 23 Open; 30 Gaffney*
October 7 Nation Ford*; 14 at Fort Mill*; 21 Clover; 28 at Northwestern*
▪ Rock Hill’s opponents won 65 percent of their games last season; star denotes 2015 playoff team; cursive denotes Region 4-5A opponent
Numbers to know
8 5A teams on the Bearcats’ 10-game regular season schedule.
9 teams on Rock Hill’s 2016 schedule that played in the postseason last year, including South Pointe, Northwestern and Dorman, which all played in state title games.
403 combined tackles graduated from Rock Hill’s front seven, which was one of the best in the area last year. Finding players to step into the holes left by Alan Salgado, Stephen Chesney, Khari Hunter and Donavon Perryman will be a chief priority for the Bearcats.
2009 was the last year Rock Hill had a winning record (11-1). The Bearcats have made the postseason twice in the six seasons since.
11 catches last season for Qua Brice as a junior at South Pointe. The receiver transferred to Rock Hill this offseason and should be an integral part of the Bearcats’ passing attack.