Nowhere to go but up for Pointers


Photo’s by Kent Sanborn


SOUTH POINT – Simply put, the South Point Pointers have nowhere to go but up.

But, that’s a good thing – and already the Pointers are headed in the right direction, per second-year head coach James Gifford.

“We have improved a lot and it’s exciting to see,” he said. “We’ve had four new kids come out to put our numbers at 41. We’ve had 95-percent attendance throughout the summer. The student body is caring about football again. There is excitement in the school about football. We had a great offseason. Last year, I wondered how many people liked football. Not to take away from the ones who loved it already. The kids are starting to encourage parents to take their vacations at a different time. So just the whole attitude of football is really changing.”

Indeed, it all begins with attitude, as the Pointers are coming off an 0-10 campaign.

Last season, surely, was a learning year for South Point – with young players and a new coaching staff getting to know one another.

Now, it’s about improvement in the win-loss column, and gaining confidence in learning how to win games.

“The thing now is learning how to win and expecting to win. We want to expect to win games, not just thinking we hope we can win. It’s figuring out how to do that,” said Gifford. “If we can get a win or two early, that will give us confidence going forward. I think you will see a big difference once we get that first one. A big key for us will be getting off to a good start.”

The Pointers will have a chance to get that first win with their non-league schedule, as South Point plays Piketon (1-9 in 2018) in its season opener – followed by Miami Valley Christian (Division VII) and Alexander (4-6 in 2018).

Gifford, the former coach at small-school Sciotoville East, is also dealing with something he experienced while with the Tartans – a lack of depth.

The Pointers have some at the skilled positions, but not as much along the lines, which in part forced Gifford to switch South Point’s defense to a 3-5-3 base.

“We’ve got a lot of skilled kids, but not a lot of depth up front. Skill-wise, we can go about three-deep at any spot. We want to play fast, because we have some playmakers and that tempo fits our personality. We will have to stay healthy and hopefully develop depth,” said the coach.

As part of that defensive look, which can also appear as a 5-3 or 4-4 front, Ryan Fetty (5-10, 190, Sr.) figures to be the nose gard – as he will split time with first-year player Karl Klineman (5-6, 185, So.).

The ends are Thomas Duna (5-9, 200, Sr.) and Bennett McCallister (5-11, 225, Jr.), with the middle linebackers being Bryson Hackworth (5-9, 195, So.) on the strong side and Brandon Pierson (5-9, 195, Sr.) on the weak side.

The outside linebackers will be Walker Clay (5-9, 170, Jr.) and Austin Hunt (6-0, 180, Sr.).

Chance Gunther returns at cornerback, while Josh Rigney, Malik Pegram, Nakyan Turner, Darryl Taylor and Maddox McCallister can all play either corner or safety.

The entire offensive line returns, anchored by senior right guard Grant Gifford, who is the coach’s son and stands six-foot, two inches tall and weighs 265 pounds.

Fellow senior Brody Thompson

Brody Thompson
Current Team
South Point
  – at 6-4 and 330 pounds – returns at right tackle to provide plenty of height and bulk, as the left side features senior guard Duna and junior tackle Kameron Hardy (6-1, 245).

Hardy and Fetty are versatile and can play any of the three positions, as McCallister comes back at center.

While experience is a benefit for the fronts, depth – at this point – isn’t.

“Basically, the whole offensive line is rotating as the defensive line,” said Coach Gifford. “It’s about keeping them fresh and we really don’t lose anything. (Offensive line) is where we’re thin. We’ve got a good line, but if one or two guys go down, we’re in trouble.”

That line will be blocking for a good rotation of skilled players, headlined by sophomore quarterback Alex Lambert (5-11, 170).

Lambert started some last season, pressed into early service primarily due to injuries.

Gunther (5-10, 150, Sr.), a returning wide receiver and the team’s leader in receptions, is the backup signal-caller.

Chance Gunther
Current Team
South Point

The athletic Gunther is arguably the most important threat in the Pointers’ offense, as other receivers include Pegram, Taylor and T.J. Wong.

Larry Fox (6-2, 220, Sr.) returns at tight end, and is both a blocking and receiving threat.

He is also back as the team’s punter.

The running backs include six-foot, 200-pound senior Jeremy McMillan, along with McCallister, Pierson, Hackworth, Turner and Chris Slash.

“We have about four receivers we can put in at any time and we have about six running backs we can rotate around and not really miss a beat and we’re wanting to do that,” said Gifford. “We want a nice rotation of offense and defense. We have 41 players, but we feel like skilled players we can almost platoon offense and defense.”

The Pointers’ plans for platooning could be critical – especially come Ohio Valley Conference competition.

Gallia Academy is the defending champion and Ironton is the consensus preseason favorite, as Gifford gave the early nod to those two.

However, he is well-aware of the difficulty and balance the OVC should show itself yet again.

“The league has great players, great coaches and great teams, It’s going to be a tough, close race, but our kids should embrace this kind of schedule. Playing teams like those should provide a measuring stick to where your program is at,” said Gifford.

And, from where South Point is at right now, it’s a 180-degree turn from a year ago – with nowhere to go but up.

Head Coach James Gifford

Current Team
South Point
Past Teams
Piketon, Sciotoville

“I’m definitely looking forward to the season. Wins or losses, there is excitement for football at South Point again,” said Gifford. “It’s a great place, and these kids have worked hard, put in the time and absolutely want to get better this year.”

South Point 2019 Roster & Stats

1Chance Gunther20205-1015011058113026596700000
1Jordan Ermalovich20235-091450000000000000000
4T.J. Wong20215-0713000000425000000000
5Maddox McCallister20225-101650000048288214170100000
7Malik Pegram20225-101502949650071882117000000
8Nakyan Turner20205-09145000009531312000000
9Xavier Haney20245-071600000000000000000
11Darryl Taylor20216-0116500000000332000000
13Alex Lambert20225-1117067143141111788000000000
16Justin Clins20215-091850000000000000000
18Taylor Smith20235-71600000000000000000
20Chris Slash20205-081500000000000000000
21Walker Clay20215-091700000033000000000
22Jasiah Martin20225-111650000000000000000
23Josh Rigney20205-1115000000000314000000
25Austin Hunt20226-001800000000000000000
29Peyton McFann20235-081350000000000000000
32A.J. Lovejoy20215-051350000000000000000
33Bryson Hackworth20225-0913500000214000000000
35Trey Rutherford20235-081400000014000000000
40Brandon Pierson20205-091950000020124200000000
41Isiah Runyon20235-091600000000000000000
44Jeremy McMillian20206-002000000068381214222000000
53Grant Gifford20206-022650000000000000000
55Thomas Duna20205-092000000000000000000
61Marice Long20236-022400000000000000000
62Dallas Turley20235-091850000000000000000
63Karl Klineman20225-061850000000000000000
66Luke Byrd20225-091700000000000000000
70Bennett McCallister20215-112250000000000000000
75Josh Jackson20215-092250000000000000000
76Kameron Hardy20216-012450000000000000000
77Ryan Fetty20205-101900000000000000000
78Brody Thompson20206-043300000000000000000
81Ethan Nicely20236-011500000000000000000
85Larry Fox20206-022200000000035610600000
87Erik Sloan20215-101750000000000000000

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