When Blythewood High opens in August for its fourth year of classes, there will be a void.
Richard Mounce will be enrolled at Clemson with a promising college baseball career ahead of him.
Mounce’s athletic exploits at Blythewood — where he quarterbacked the football team to 24 consecutive wins, led the S.C. Shrine Bowl team to a victory against North Carolina in December and guided the Bengals baseball team to the Class 3A Upper State final last month — make him The State’s Midlands high school male athlete of the year.
While impressive, his athletic abilities are not what his coaches, teachers and teammates will miss most.
“I think he means more than just being an athlete,” Blythewood football coach Geremy Saitz said. “He’s the true definition of a leader by example. In the classroom, in the community; everybody sees it on the field, but they don’t realize what a great job he does in the classroom working hard on his grades and in the community working with the other grade levels. Great leader, great student-athlete. He’s the definition of a student-athlete.”
After Blythewood won the 2006 Class 3A championship in its first season, it was barred from the 2007 playoffs because of spring-practice violations.
That didn’t deter Mounce.
Last summer, while playing for Richland Post 6 in the American Legion state baseball playoffs, he found time to take part in offseason conditioning with his football teammates.
After leading Post 6 to the state title, Mounce threw 34 touchdown passes with two interceptions as the Bengals went 10-0. He averaged 308.3 yards of offense per game as a senior.
He leaves Blythewood having thrown or run for a touchdown in each of the school’s 25 football games.
Mounce never seriously considered focusing on one sport in high school.
“Mainly because I love both sports,” he said. “I love playing football, and I love playing baseball. I didn’t want to do one and not do the other, because I would miss it too much. It’s a big commitment, but it was worth it.”
Baseball became his priority in November, when he kept a long-standing commitment to play at Clemson. He made that decision a few weeks after Blythewood’s football season ended and before the Shrine Bowl football game.
But with few offers to play college football, despite his impressive high school career, Mounce went with the school and coaches that believed in him most.
Still, those he is leaving behind at Blythewood wonder.
“Richard was an undersized player, but he was an amazing athlete,” said Blythewood defensive end Justin Anderson, Mounce’s teammate the past two seasons. “I feel bad that he couldn’t get a scholarship for football, because to me, he was a better football player than baseball player.”
For all the football talk, Mounce did have an exceptional baseball career too.
On a 26-6 team that placed second to A.C. Flora in both Region 3-3A and the Upper State playoffs, Mounce was 9-2 with a 2.08 ERA. In his three-year career, he won 19 games.
Mounce plays outfield when he is not pitching. He batted .427 with a team-best seven home runs as a senior.
Those accomplishments earned him praise and notice from those who watched Blythewood play. But there are other things that leave lasting memories.
Will Ferrell, who played football and baseball with Mounce, will remember his leadership skills.
“He was a great leader, that’s for sure,” Ferrell said. “Last year, I started as a sophomore. I was down a lot. I was going against players that were better than me and more experienced than I was. I had a rough year. He would just come out and pick me up, tell me to shake it off and get better. It made me a better player overall.”
Mounce earned all-state honors in both sports and was named S.C. Mr. Football in December.
Blythewood athletics director Vince Lowry hopes future Bengals learn from Mounce’s approach to notoriety.
“He is one of the most unassuming kids in the school,” Lowry said. ‘Unless you knew all those (awards) he has received, you would never know it. He’s as humble a young man as I’ve ever been around.”
Humble, but oh, so accomplished — no matter what the season.
Reach Wiseman at (803) 771-8472