by Aaron Garcia
For fans of offense-heavy football, Union County offered a buffet of talent this season.
If your taste was aerial, Marvin Ridge’s K.J. Brent and Sun Valley’s Jody Fuller each turned in memorable campaigns. If you prefer explosive rushing performances, Sun Valley’s Jadarrius Williams and Piedmont’s Jacob Oakley more than satiated your appetite. And, of course, there was Monroe’s Jamison Crowder, who played every position imaginable this past season and finished with a county-leading 24 touchdowns.
But no player had a greater impact on his team’s success than Union County Weekly’s 2010 Offensive Player of the Year, Porter Ridge High quarterback Lee McNeill.
McNeill, a junior, had a breakout season in 2010, passing for 2,494 yards with 37 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. He also rushed for 383 yards and another three scores, leading the Pirates to the best season in school history. Porter Ridge finished 13-2, claiming a Southern Carolina 3A/4A conference title, en route to a Class 4A semifinal appearance while averaging 36.27 points per game.
McNeill isn’t your typical quarterback; he’s soft-spoken and unassuming, so it’s not surprising that he deflects most of the praise to his teammates.
“It was easy for me because everyone knew their jobs, and they did it,” said McNeill. “I just had to get them the ball, and they made plays.”
Not surprisingly, McNeill is being modest. For the second consecutive season, the Pirates used a read-option Spread offensive attack, which meant that McNeill was counted on to read a defense – often after the snap – and decide whether the ball should go to a running back or a receiver.
According to Pirates coach Blair Hardin, McNeill ran the complex offense to near-perfection.
“Everything we do is based off his decision-making – everything, 100 percent,” said Hardin. “He was almost flawless. I don’t like saying that, but at certain times he was the reason we clicked.”
Like when the Pirates traveled to Asheville to take on defending 4A state champ A.C. Reynolds High. McNeill completed 20 of 30 passes for 239 yards and two touchdowns.
“That was impressive, to go into a hostile environment and compete,” said Hardin. “He played very well in the postseason. We saw him mature as a football player.
“He just found a way for us to win.”
As for McNeill’s seemingly subdued persona on the field, Hardin said it served as a calming influence at times this season.
“His teammates respond well to it,” the coach said. “They know he’s not vocal, but they know he’s going to show up and try to do the small things to just win. They know he’s a winner.
“His biggest asset is he’s a quiet leader and he just wants to win. He’ll do whatever it takes to win.”