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Demons head to “Football City USA” to meet Bearcats

Posted: September 20, 2018 11:29 a.m.
Updated: September 21, 2018 1:00 a.m.
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CRINSHAWN MCREA ... L-E offensive lineman

There was a time, not too long ago, when the Rock Hill football brand struck fear in the eyes of their opponents. Recently, not so much.

Since 2010, the Bearcats have not had a winning season with their best campaign being a 5-7 record in 2011. Trips to District 3 Stadium have not been exercises in futility like they had been when Rock Hill was ruling the roost in 4A football. The opening of South Pointe High School distributed the wealth in what the locals call “Football City USA” with Rock Hill’s roster taking hits from players heading across town.

What has not changed for the Bearcats is that they still face one of the toughest schedules in the state. Already, Rock Hill has played 5A power Sumter and four-time defending 4A state champion South Pointe; splitting those games with a season-opening 33-23 loss to Sumter in week zero followed by a 29-22 win against South Pointe while snapping an eight-year skid against the Stallions.

Tonight, Lugoff-Elgin gets its first crack at Rock Hill with the visiting Demons looking for their first win in six tries this year.

L-E head coach Matt Campbell said that while the Bearcats may have lost some of their luster from the time when he was a senior tight end at North Augusta High School in 1989, he thinks that better days are on the horizon for Rock Hill.

“Rock Hill has a storied program. They struggled a few years ago but, they’re coming back. Look at them, they beat South Pointe this year and South Pointe has kind of become that measuring stick in the state, right now, along with Dutch Fork,” he said. “They’ve played a tough schedule; they played Sumter. They’ve really played some quality teams.

Along with the win over South Pointe, the Bearcats own a 34-7 win over AAA Indian Land while having been trounced by AAA entry Chester, 36-14.

Campbell admitted that his players probably don’t know as much about how Rock Hill had things rolling in its heyday. 

“Our kids probably don’t know the history of their program but, hopefully, they know who Rock Hill is, have watched film on them and know who Rock Hill is now. You go back to when I was growing up and (Rock Hill) was a true power.”

The Demons have had two extra days between games leading up to tonight’s contest. Before the South Carolina High School League made its announcement as to adding an additional week to the season due to Hurricane Florence, L-E beat the ruling organization to the punch and moved its scheduled Friday game with Fort Mill up two nights, playing it last Wednesday. With after school activities being cancelled for Thursday and with no classes due to the storm on Friday, it made for a strange end of the week.

Things have just started to settle down for the Demons this week. Monday, the Demons had to take practice indoors as the reading on the wet bulb (which is used to determine heat and humidity levels which determine whether or not it is safe to practice outdoors) was over the allowable number for outside practice.

“Between the wet bulb and the hurricane,” Campbell said, “practice has been a little scattered but, we have to come in and we have to prepare. Here’s the thing, your opponent is going to have the same amount of time to prepare as you have.

“Monday, we lost a practice because of the wet bulb and had to go inside but, Rock Hill was out of school on Monday. You’re looking at short weeks. It makes you put emphasis on being precise while you’re there in practice and holding yourself to a high standard.”

During Tuesday’s practice, the Demons went first team offense against first team defense in trying to simulate game speed and game conditions which they will face tonight.

The L-E defense has the task of trying to slow down a Bearcat offense which features junior wide out Antonio Barber, who has already committed to Tennessee. Narii Gather (5-10, 175), who was the top defensive player in the Rock Hill area last season, has been moved to running back for an offense which has speed, size and athleticism with Hayden Jackson calling the signals from behind center.

“They’re going to do a bunch of different things on offense,” Campbell said of the Bearcats. “They’re going to spread you out and they have a tight end who is a really good player who also plays some H-back. Their quarterback can throw it and, he’s also good on his feet. They have a big offensive line and they have two backs who, I think, are really special.”

Campbell said the hosts boast a stout front line which can penetrate without much help from the linebackers. The Demons’ boss said the two defensive tackles can disrupt things along the line while the Bearcat linebackers are “downhill players who are very fast and very athletic.”

Campbell said the Bearcats fit the blueprint of successful teams from the Charlotte suburb. “You look what comes out of the Rock Hill area; Rock Hill, Northwestern and South Pointe. They’re all pretty good teams.”

Tonight marks the sixth game in as many weeks for the Demons who will kick off play in Region 4-5A next Friday when Spring Valley comes to the West Wateree.

L-E is coming off its two best offensive performances in the season in a 28-18 loss to River Bluff which was followed by last Wednesday’s 41-21 setback at the hands of Fort Mill. In both contests, the Demons had the lead in the second half only to come up short. In this final non-conference game of the season, Campbell and his staff would like nothing better than to close out an opponent. With that goal in mind, this was a week of change on the practice field.

 “I want to see our kids finish a game. I don’t think that we’ve done a good job finishing,” Campbell said. “We’ve had opportunities where, in the third quarter, we had a chance to go in and close out an opponent. 

“We’re trying new things on offense, new things on defense and new ways of practicing to try and figure out what that right formula is to get it done.”

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