Balentine's cool exterior is deceiving
There's a warrior's fire raging inside Balentine
By Mike Rosier | Morris News Service
Saturday, December 26, 2009

JOHNSTON, S.C. --- If you're looking for the warrior in Stephen Balentine, you will have to dig much deeper than the cool exterior of the senior Wardlaw Academy quarterback.

He doesn't scream and yell, or wear his emotions on his sleeves.

What he does is make plays -- and lots of them.

Balentine led his team to a second consecutive South Carolina Independent Schools Association eight-man football crown after going undefeated (11-0) for the second year in a row. Balentine piled up impressive statistics -- 2,021 passing yards, 1,053 rushing yards, 35 passing touchdowns and 16 rushing touchdowns, 3,198 all-purpose yards, 58 tackles and 10 interceptions -- to be The Augusta Chronicle's Independent Player of the Year.

But if you run these numbers by Balentine it barely elicits a yawn. He doesn't see the individual marks nearly as exciting as what gets him going -- winning.

"I kinda get tired of talking about all the numbers because it's really about winning and winning the state title," he said. "I don't like to lose, and winning plays a big part in it. But it's not all about winning, it's about playing your best game because if you do that and lose then you know you haven't really lost even though the scoreboard says you did."

And if you dig a little deeper, the warrior is there.

"I try to keep my composure and keep my emotions down so that I can do what I need to do; but it's there," he added. "Oh yeah, (the competitor) is there. It's there inside, I just show (emotions) in a different way. As a quarterback you have to be the leader and show people how to play football."

The state title game was almost surreal for Balentine, who had to try to maintain his focus through the high-scoring game.

"We all were in a zone (on offense) it wasn't just me because the receivers had to catch the balls," he said of the 78-54 victory.

"That was kind of our plan, to score on every play, but sometimes you get lucky and you score some. We were trading scores so much and I was playing defense too, so I didn't have time to keep up with all the scoring that was going on. We definitely didn't plan on them scoring that much."

Balentine said that game was the most exciting he's played in.

"Definitely," said Balentine, who accounted for 11 touchdowns. "It was the scoring and the fact that it was my last game playing high school football."

But there is one final item to consider where Balentine's legacy at Wardlaw is concerned. On Monday, the Patriots were named the National Private School Athletic Association (NPSAA) 8-Man Division Three National Champions.

Wardlaw's football team finished in fourth place in the final Division Two rankings last season.

It is the school's first national title in any sport.

However, not even a national championship -- the school will receive a 5-foot-tall trophy at a presentation sometime in the next several weeks -- and a possible National Player of the Year award can coax cockiness out of a team-first player like Balentine.

"We're the first ones to win a national championship, but I don't know if we're the best (Wardlaw team) or not," he said. "There's some (former players) who might say something about that. (Wardlaw assistant coach and former Wardlaw state champ in 1999 and 2000) Coach Brian Anderson says we don't hit as hard as they did. But it's still nice, though."

STEPHEN BALENTINE

SCHOOL: Wardlaw Academy

YEAR/POSITION: Senior/Quarterback

HEIGHT/WEIGHT: 6-0/178

SEASON HIGHLIGHTS: Led Wardlaw Academy to its second consecutive state title this season, throwing for more than 2,000 yards and rushing for more than 1,000 yards and accounting for 51 touchdowns (35 passing, 16 rushing) against three interceptions. Balentine completed 65 percent of his passes and also totaled 58 tackles, 10 interceptions and nine tackles for loss from his safety position on defense. In the state championship game against Patrick Henry Academy, Balentine had the best night of his career, tossing 10 touchdown passes and rushing for another with an interception on defense.

ALL-AREA ATHLETES

The Augusta Chronicle is profiling its top performers from fall sports this week:

MONDAY: Boys cross country

TUESDAY: Girls cross country

WEDNESDAY: Volleyball

THURSDAY: Softball

FRIDAY: Georgia football

TODAY: Independent football

SUNDAY: South Carolina football

Q&A WITH BALENTINE

Q: Besides hard work, why have you been successful?

A: Basically, good coaching and help from my teammates and determination.

Q: What do you like about being an athlete at Wardlaw?

A: It's a small school, so you get a lot of playing time and you know all your teammates on a personal level.

Q: Fifty years from now, what will we all remember about this decade, the 00's?

A: It'll probably be something about Tiger Woods.

Q: What song motivates you before competition?

A: A song by Eminem called Til I Collapse.

Q: Web site you visit every day?

A: ESPN, Facebook and my school Web site.

From the Saturday, December 26, 2009 edition of the Augusta Chronicle
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