Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Charlotte Observer Preseason Sweet 16: No. 10 Rock Hill South Pointe

Each day the Observer will count down a team in its Sweet 16. The new team will appear around 3 p.m. on

By Denny Seitz
Special Correspondent
If it’s not broke, don’t fix it, right? Well, sort of. Continuing a tradition of highly successful football teams at Rock Hill South Pointe is the goal for first-time head coach Strait Herron, who has spent the past 11 years as an assistant coach and/or defensive coordinator at three schools.

And while the Stallions’ football program is hardly broken, Herron and his staff have lots of shifting, altering and tweaking after the graduation of national Defensive Player of the Year Jadeveon Clowney and fellow Division I defensive star Gerald Dixon, the son of the former NFL player.

“We’re changing everything,” said Herron, who added former Weddington coach Blair Hardin to his staff, as offensive coordinator.

Hardin will lead the Stallions away from the Flex Bone, implementing a spread offense that will utilize the talents of the lightning-quick trio of seniors Tay Hicklin, Montay Crockett and Corey Neely.

Revamping the defense will be the task of new defensive coordinator Jason Winstead, who was at Rock Hill High last season. Winstead is installing a 3-5 defense after the Stallions operated out of a Shade 50 the past six seasons.

The schemes and coaches are new, but the expectations remain for the Stallions, ranked 10th in the Observer preseason Sweet 16.

“The offense and defense we’ve installed both suit our personnel better,” said Herron. “Both are made for speed. And we have speed.”

The Stallions have plenty of talent returning, including Hicklin, Crockett and Neely – each of whom runs sub 4.5 40-yard dashes and can be ultra-dangerous in the open field. Hicklin began last season as the Stallions’ quarterback and threw for 499 yards and ran for 515 more before giving way to rising junior Devon Pearson, who has the tools that make Herron think he’ll thrive in the spread offense.

“He’s just a great athlete,” Herron said of Pearson, who, in less than half a season last year, chalked up 654 passing yards and nine touchdown tosses.

The quarterback and his receiving trio will get help from the running back tandem of juniors DiaMond Miller and Brandon Barber. Miller transferred to South Pointe from Rock Hill High, where he was the leading rusher on the Bearcats’ junior varsity team in 2010. Barber was a back with the Stallions.

Defensively, Hicklin, Neely and JaRyan Jennings return to starting positions, as does cornerback Buddy Byers, but the entire front line will be new, as the Clowney era officially ends.

“You cannot replace Jadeveon Clowney,” said Herron. “All you can do is move forward.”

Juniors Jeremy Hopkins and Matt Meyer, and sophomore Zeke Rodney will compete for the two defensive end positions.

College coaches might not be flocking to South Pointe games this year, as they did the past few seasons while they recruited Clowney, but that doesn’t mean there’s not enough talent to be a state champion, Herron says.

“That is, and always will be, our goal,” he said.

South Pointe

Last year: 13-2, 5-0 in S.C. Region 4 3A
What’s new: What’s new at South Pointe? It’d be easier to ask ‘what’s not new?’ Strait Herron is the new head coach. He has new offensive and defensive coordinators who will implement new offensive and defensive schemes.
Three to watch
DB/WR Tay Hicklin (Sr. 6-1, 175)
DB/WR Montay Crockett (Sr. 6-1, 175)
DB/WR Corey Neely (Sr. 6-1, 170)
Bet you didn’t know: South Pointe High opened six years ago. The Stallions were 3-8 in year one and have gone 47-10 the past four seasons, including 2008, when the team went 15-0 and won the 3A state championship.
Preview analysis: The Stallions could contend for a state championship again this season, but the first few weeks could be ultra-challenging, with the season opener at Northwestern and a week 3 Saturday afternoon kickoff against West Rowan. Both foes went 15-0 last season and won state championships in S.C. and N.C. respectively.
Schedule: Aug. 26, Northwestern; Sept. 2, at Airborne for Christ; 10, West Rowan; 16, at Rock Hill; 23, Spartanburg; 30, at Fort Mill; Oct. 7, at Fort Mill Nation Ford; 14, Fairfield Central; 21, at Chester; 28, York

The Sweet 16
No. 9: Announced in Monday’s Observer and at 3 p.m. today on
No. 10: South Pointe
No. 11: Hibriten
No. 12: Burns (3A)
No. 13: Sun Valley (4A)
No. 14: Independence (4A)
No. 15: Lincolnton (2A)
No. 16: Albemarle (1A)