The Northwestern football team has proven to be a consistent winner, winning four state championships in the last quarter century.
But Northwestern has exceeded their lofty standards in the past six years, averaging 12 wins per season while playing in five of the past six AAAA Division II state title games, winning it all in 2010 and 2013.
Last year, coach Kyle Richardson and the Trojans went 15-0, averaging 48 points per game and capped by a 62-35 victory over Stratford High in the state final.
The program has produced standout players like Johnathan Joseph (Houston Texans cornerback), Cordarrelle Patterson (Minnesota Vikings receiver), Ben Watson (New Orleans Saints tight end) and Justin Worley (Tennessee Volunteers quarterback), but Northwestern has never repeated as state champions.
“At the beginning of every season, our goal is to win a state championship, and that’s what we are working for again this season,” Richardson said. “Having those expectations isn’t easy, but that is Northwestern football and you learn to live with it.”
If the 2014 Trojans are going to repeat, they will have to get their “air-raid” offense clicking with a new starting quarterback after Mason Rudolph (4,377 yards passing and 64 touchdown passes last year) graduated, moving on to play at Oklahoma State.
His successor will be either Jacob Haney or Harper Woods, both juniors.
One of the quarterback’s main goals will be to get the ball in the hands of all-state wide receiver Dupree Hart.
Hart, who stands just 5-foot-7 and 155 pounds, had 115 catches for 1,655 yards and 26 touchdowns last season, including 21 catches for 255 yards and four scores in the state championship game.
Hart’s 306 career receptions (averaging 11.4 catches per game) are the best in South Carolina state history, beating out former Summerville High standout and current Cincinnati Bengal A.J. Green. Hart is about 60 receptions short of the national record, according to Richardson.
“Anytime we can get the ball in Dupree’s hands it’s definitely a good thing,” said Richardson. (He) is committed to play baseball at College of Charleston even though he has multiple Division I football offers. “He’s plays like he’s 6-foot-5, 210, like he’s A.J. Green. He’s a been a consistent performer since he got here.”
The Trojan defense, which allowed only 16 points per game last season, will also be a big factor as six starters are back led by all-region senior defensive end Chris Bouyer. South Pointe transfer linebacker Trae’von Hinton should also have a big impact.
The expectations of the team remain the same: a state championship.
A repeat performance won’t be easy from the start with a tough nonconference slate, opening with Duncan Byrnes Aug. 22 before traveling to Charlotte Catholic Aug. 29 and Greenwood Sept. 12. The Trojans also host Irmo Sept. 5 and South Pointe Sept. 19 in the first month of the season.
“A state championship is our ultimate goal every season and this year won’t be any different,” said Richardson, who is 35-8 in his three-year tenure. “We just have to go and start taking care of business.”