Northwestern coach David Pierce was quick to point out during an interview over the summer that the Trojans have never won more than nine game the year after winning a state title. He cited the 2014 season - following a championship the year prior - when Northwestern’s coaching staff felt it over-hyped the chase for back to back titles. The plan is to do the opposite this year.
Some great teams have come back from that glory season and always had holes to fill. That being said, the pressure is on. I think our kids understand that. We’re not gonna spend a whole lot of time, team-wise, hyping that.
The 2016 Trojans could buck that next-year trend. Pierce can call on a number of experienced offensive contributors that return from last season’s team, including a nucleus of QB Gage Moloney, running back Jerry Howard and receivers Jordan Starkes and Jamario Holley, all college commitments or prospects. Josiah Ivey, Alex Parker and Austin Hoofnagle are back on the offensive line.
We’ve got six that started the state championship game. They have playoff experience, they know the system, so a strength is experience on offense.
Northwestern coach David Pierce
Northwestern graduated a pair of Shrine Bowlers - Trae’von Hinton and Miles Corpening - on defense, but has plenty returning there, too. Senior defensive ends Alan Alford and Logan Rudolph, a Clemson commit, should be able to pressure QBs regularly, while Caliph Brice is another senior that’s really put together well at linebacker and is a college recruit. Filling the positions around those returning players will be key, especially in the middle of the defensive line, which can prosper from the attention paid to Alford and Rudolph.
Two more seniors, safety Ali Shockley and cornerback D.J. Agurs, offer experience and play-making knack in the secondary. Junior Ladell Massey should slot into the safety spot vacated by Corpening, while the other corner spot is up for grabs.
There are effectively three seasons for every South Carolina high school team this year: non-region, region and the playoffs. The first of those three has zero implication on the other two. Pierce wants his team to win every game it plays, but to also keep that in mind with a difficult schedule looming.
If anyone asks, coach Pierce wants to win every game. For the record, I’m big into winning.
David Pierce, flashing his trademark dry humor
Returning starters: 5 offense, 4 defense
Key returning players: Sr. OL Josiah Ivey; Sr. RB Jerry Howard; Sr. DE Logan Rudolph; Sr. QB Gage Moloney; Sr. DL Alan Alford; Soph. WR Jamario Holley; Jr. WR Jordan Starkes; Sr. DB Ali Shockley; Sr. CB D.J. Agurs; Sr. LB Caliph Brice; Sr. WR Dequez Harris; Sr. LB Jaedon Gladden; Sr. WR Rodney Brown; Sr. OL Alex Parker; Sr. LB Dantavis Bowser.
Coach David Pierce (1st year)
Career record 0-0
Assistant coaching staff Robert Hellams, offensive coordinator; James Martin, defensive coordinator; Mitch Walters, special teams, running backs; Page Wofford, wide receivers; Benji Young, defensive backs; Robert Dickon, wide receivers; Bobby Page, defensive backs; Ray McCleod, linebackers; Sam Mallard, offensive line; Mario Donato, defensive line; Andy White, video coordinator.
Last season 14-1, beat Lexington 63-13 in 4A Division II state championship game
Last 10 years combined 113-29 (79.6 percent)
School state championships 5 (1989, 1993, 2010, 2013, 2015)
August: 19 South Pointe*; 26 at Dorman*
September: 2 South Meck*; 9 at Byrnes*; 16 Spartanburg*; 23 at Gaffney*; 30 at Fort Mill*
October: 7 Open; 14 Clover; 21 at Nation Ford*; 28 Rock Hill
▪ Northwestern’s opponents won 63 percent of their games last season; star denotes 2015 playoff team; cursive denotes Region 4-5A opponent.
Numbers to know
47.7 points per game from the Trojan offense last season. A number of key contributors return this year.
3 state championships in last 6 seasons for Northwestern.
30 years that new head coach David Pierce served as an assistant coach on the Trojans’ staff before being named the head man in April.
5 the number of teams Northwestern plays in 2016 that reached at least the semifinals in their classification’s 2015 state playoffs.
6 of the last 9 seasons have been at least 12-win campaigns for Northwestern.