First woman in years suits up for varsity football at South Stanly

Published 10:39 am Saturday, August 19, 2023

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The opening of the 2023 high school football season was a night of firsts for South Stanly.

Friday’s game saw new head coach Terry Shankle take the field along with something football fans have likely not seen in at least 20 years or more: a girl playing varsity football for a Stanly team.

Samantha Hinchcliffe, wearing jersey number 23, took to the field as the Bulls looked to turn the program’s fortunes around.

Hinchcliffe dressed out with the team but did not make it into the game as the Bulls opened with a 34-0 loss to visiting West Stanly.

She became the first female football player for a Stanly team since at least 2002, when Samantha and Rachelle Noll both suited up for North Stanly.

Hinchliffe talked about why she wanted to join the football team.

“I do wrestling, and I really just wanted to stay in shape,” Hinchliffe said, with wrestling coming in the winter high school sports season. “It was either doing this or cross country. I wanted to challenge myself to do something way harder than just running.”

Being on the football team, she said, is “like being on a family. They all treat me amazingly. They don’t treat me any differently.”

Although this was her first time suiting up for the South football team, Samantha Hinchliffe, center, is familiar with South athletics. Her primary sport is wrestling. (Photo by Charles Curcio/staff)

She wants to help the team go further this season while “working harder every day and pushing myself.”

Shankle, coaching in his first game as the head coach of his alma mater, talked about Hinchliffe.

“She brings toughness (to the team),” Shankle said. “She comes out there every day, and no matter what the situation is, she never quits. She shows how to be relentless. I feel like our team can feed off of that.”

The first-year coach noted her toughness is what he wants the team’s identity to be built out of this season.

South Stanly head coach Terry Shankle coached his first game for South Friday night. (Photo by Charles Curcio/staff)

Regarding the game, Shankle said, “My main goal was for us to execute and make sure to get guys in the right position to be successful, not give up big plays … we didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot on special teams, minus a couple of bad punts. If there is anything we can clean up is the penalties.”

For West Stanly (1-0), Friday’s win was the Colts’ 10th straight varsity football win over South (0-1), improving West’s lifetime record versus South to 35-26-2.

The Bulls lost but showed signs of improvement. The 34 points allowed to the Colts were the lowest in five games on the field for South dating to last year, and the first game which did not end on a running clock to the 42-point rule. South stopped the Colts on three first-half drives, including a forced fumble.

Josiah Holt stretches out for a pass for South. (Photo by Charles Curcio/staff)

However, West’s defense stopped the Bulls twice on goal line stands, including an interception on fourth down by Rene Salazar.

Senior quarterback Jett Thomas, who announced this week on social media he was committed to Wingate University for baseball next season, threw two touchdown passes in the win. The first started the scoring late in the first quarter to Gavyn Efird. The other pass came with seconds left in the first half, which put the Colts ahead at halftime 22-0.

Ending a seven-game losing streak of its own with Friday’s win, West head coach Brett Morton spoke with Shankle after the game.

“I just told him that I thought he was doing a good job,” Morton said. “From last year to this year, I thought there was a lot of improvement in where they were. I could tell the guys really believed in him and play for him.”

West’s Ben Mecimore looks to tackle South’s Ikey Holt. (Photo by Charles Curcio/staff)

Regarding the win, Morton said the team still had a lot of things on which to work.

“Defensively, we have to get better at tackling … we’ve got a lot work going on in the kicking game,” Morton said.

He added the team “put themselves defensively in bad situations but then responded (by stopping South).”

Morton said the offense had a lot of positives, using more of a gun-T offense from the shotgun than the traditional wing-T the team had run for several seasons.

West will open its schedule Friday at home against Carson (0-1). The Cougars lost at Mount Pleasant in Week 1, 26-16.

South Stanly will host South Rowan (1-0). The Raiders won at home Friday, topping Union Academy 36-22.

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio has served as the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press for more than 16 years and has written numerous news and feature storeis as well. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also won an award from Boone Newspapers, and has won four North Carolina Press Association awards.

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