Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Preseason Sweet 16 No. 7: Rock Hill Northwestern

Continuing a series of Sweet 16 previews. No. 6 will appear here online at 3 p.m. and in Thursday's Observer.

By Denny Seitz

ROCK HILL -- The winning football tradition at Rock Hill’s Northwestern High has been firmly in place for several decades now, so seeing the Trojans penciled in as the No. 7 team in the Observer preseason Sweet 16 might imply everything is business as usual for the team in 2011.

The fact is, expectations, and many of the players and coaches are the same for this year’s club, but the face of the program and some of the key cogs in its current run of four straight region championships and three straight appearances in the state finals are absent this time around.

“He’s a legend,” new head coach Kyle Richardson said, of Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Wallace, who retired after the Trojans’ 15-0 state championship run last year. “You don’t really replace that. You just try to keep it going.”

Wallace isn’t the only big change. Three defensive linemen from last year’s team graduated to scholarship spots in the ACC or SEC, and the school also graduated Gatorade National Player of the Year Justin Worley, who will be quarterback at the University of Tennessee this season.

Richardson seems undaunted.

“Our mindset hasn’t changed,” said the former Belmont South Point and Appalachian State player, who was the architect of the Trojans’ Air Raid offense that has averaged more than 40 points per game over the past four seasons. “The players here know that when they put on that Trojans purple, its not about winning games, it’s about winning championships.”

Six starters return on both offense and defense for the Trojans, including all-conference receiver B.J. Boyd, who had 100 receptions for 1,228 yards and 15 touchdowns last season, and junior running back Lathomas Long, who also earned all-conference honors after amassing 850 rushing yards and 600 yards in receptions.

The defense will be led by returning all-conference performers, defensive backs Josh Shelton and Devante Gibson, and linebackers Tyderrick Robinson and Reuben Walker.
Football philosophies won’t be drastically different between the Wallace regime and the Richardson era. But the new Trojans coach laughs about the changes in style.

“He’s old school and I’m new school,” Richardson said. “He’s pen and paper. I’m computer. He’s on the office phone. I’m texting on my cell. He’s quiet. I’m music blaring on the field before and after practice.”

In the end, however, the mindset is the same.

“Practice is at a different tempo,” said Boyd. “Everything is fast, get it over with, do it fast and do it good. But everything else is pretty much the same.”

Boyd caught 100 passes last year, but that wasn’t even tops on the Trojans team. He should be targeted even more this year after the graduation of Robert Joseph, who had 122 receptions in 2011 and hauled in an unheard of 153 balls in 2010.

Throwing the ball to the speedy Trojans receivers will be senior Matt Turney (6-0, 175) or sophomore Mason Rudolph (6-5, 185). Mason starred at wide receiver last year at Westminster Catawba Christian School.

“We won’t ask them to be record breakers,” Richardson said. “We tell them to put the ball in people’s hands who can make plays. The rest takes care of itself.”

Richardson’s place in the spotlight replacing Wallace is similar to that of whichever quarterback has to replace Worley, who Richardson said is a “once-in-a-generation type player.” So growing together might be made easier.

“I can tell you that nobody is going to back down from the pressure,” Richardson said. “We’re not going to back down. We’re all focused to do whatever it takes to help the team succeed.”

Northwestern Overview
Last year:
15-0, 5-0 in S.C. Region 3 4A
What’s new: The biggest change is on the sidelines, where Kyle Richardson will be the one calling the shots after replacing Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Wallace. Another new face will be at quarterback, where three layers are competing to replace Justin Worley, who threw for 13,385 yards and 157 touchdowns the past three seasons.
Three to watch
WR B.J. Boyd (Sr. 6-0, 170): Smart receiver who should be Trojans’ No. 1 target this season
DB Josh Shelton (Sr., 5-9, 160): Top cover cornerback and expected to be leader of defense this year
RB Lathomas Long (Jr., 5-10, 170): Dual threat back who will get plenty of touches in Air Raid offense
Bet you didn’t know: Richardson was a star wide receiver at Belmont South Point, where his position coach was John Devine, the new head coach at Northwestern’s region rival, Clover.
Preview analysis: Anything less than a state championship would be falling short of the goal for the Trojans, who return tons of talent but also graduated tons of talent, including Gatorade National Player of the Year Worley, who is now quarterback at the University of Tennessee.
Schedule: Aug. 26, at South Pointe, Sept. 2, at York, 9, at Ridge View, 16, at Blythewood, 23, Nation Ford, 30, North Augusta, Oct. 7, Spartanburg, 13, Lancaster, 21, at Clover, 28, at Gaffney, Nov. 4, Rock Hill.
Denny Seitz


str8talk said...

I wonder if they will rank Mooresville.I just talked to some people at the 7 on 7 between MHS,AB Brown and Hopewell and it sounds like MHS has BEASTS on defense.I know 7 on 7 doesn't account for much but one fellow told me AB Brown is a little overated and they wouldn't score on MHS if they played for three days.All three linebackers at 6ft 4in 230-240 MONSTERS.