Inside the Swarm – Blue Ridge


Prologue:If you get up, they will clap.” Reverend Kevin Dalton, in his pre-game devotional prior to the Clinton game.

            The players were all dressed up for the Dress for Success day of Homecoming week as they met in the chorus room for the pre-game devotional.

            “I am proud of you today,” he began, “Classy. Classy. Classy. I hope you listened to the Career Day speakers in the classroom. That young lady who spoke about West Point was very sharp. Some listened, learned, and will get ahead. Some won’t. I’m proud of you today.”

            At that point, trainer Doc Lipsey introduced his pastor, the Reverend Ralph Brown from Jonesville First Baptist Church .

            “I’m glad to be here,” he began, “and I imagine you’re wondering if he’s gonna be boring or talk too long. I’ll be brief but, as you know, time doesn’t mean anything to a preacher.

            “I want to talk to you about two things - about football and life. First, we need to focus on the basics of football – blocking, tackling etc. You have to major on fundamentals.

            “In the 1961 football season, we beat Laurens, Newberry and Spartanburg . Our fourth game was with Byrnes. We felt good about playing them. I played both ways and was the deep man on punt return. I lined up on the ten-yard line to field the punt. You all know that you are taught to let it go if it is over your head. We were leading 7-6 in the second half. I’m on the ten. The ball is coming down to me. I look downfield, and we have a wall of blockers. I was ready to make a big play so I decided to field the ball even though it would go past the ten. The ball rolled into the end zone, I fielded it  and got tackled for a two-point score. We lost 8-7. The year before we had beat them 4-0.

            “I didn’t focus on the basics. When we don’t, we get in trouble. God has a basic requirement to be on His team: You have to have Jesus Christ as your savior. John 14:6, Acts 4:12 and John 10:10 all talk about this. I hope you’re on Christ’s team.

            “The second thing is to always do your best. How many of you have seen the movie, ‘Facing the Giants’? It’s a great football movie with a great message. It stresses doing your best.

            “Let me tell you a story about a country preacher who wanted to do his best but didn’t quite get it done.

            “To make sure that he wouldn’t forget anything, he taped his notes and names of key scriptural people inside his coat and as he came to a point he would look inside his coat, find his note, and then make his sermon point. This went well until his notes got a little re-arranged inside his coat. As he was going to make the point that God said that David was a man after his own heart, he looked inside his coat for his notes and said, ‘And the man that God said was after His own heart was…was.. J. C. Penny.’

            “Do your best in football. In the classroom. I hope that whatever you do after school – college, work, the military – is what God wants you to do. Plus, God wants us to be a great witness for Him so that those around us can see how people live in accordance with God’s plan. I wish you well. Some prognosticators are calling for a Blue Ridge win. If you focus on the basics good things will happen.”

With the offense.  Offensive line coach Bryan Robinson had been discussing the upcoming came with the line prior to coach Maness arriving. “We’re better than you showed Riverside ,” continued Robinson. “Give the backs a crease. Leadership comes from the offensive line. You start five seniors with two seniors as backups. So far I’ve been disappointed ‘cause you are better than what you’ve shown.”

            Coach Dave Maness wrote the region standing on the board to show the team where they were. “We can be 6-4 or 4-6,” he explained. “We talk a lot. You’ve said a lot more than you’ve done. Would you sign you as a college recruit? If you are ever going to do anything, this is the time to do it. Batesburg-Leesville ended the season 3-7 and won the State Championship. North Augusta did about the same thing in ’89. We are pulling our own wagon. When you circled the wagons 100 years ago, you fought out, knowing someone had your back. You’ve let people inside your circle. What will you be known for this year?

            Coach Rocky Cooper told the offense that there was nothing more to say. “Time for talk is over,” he continued. “Go get it.” Coach Dennis Cooper continued the theme of all the coaches when he said, “Any one can talk. Now its time to walk.”

In the gym. “Remember that feeling you had at the end of the second half last week,” said coach Lipsey. “You’ll remember this night, this year long after tonight. What will you remember? I want to see black and gold all over the ball. What are they gonna say after they leave Union County Stadium?”

At the half. “They can’t slow us down,” said Lipsey. “Let’s have a better effort in the second half. You have a great spirit.”

It’s over. “I am really proud of you,” began Lipsey. “You responded well. A sweet victory but don’t let it stop here.” An emotional coach Robinson gathered his offensive line around him and told them how proud he was of their play. “You listened to me and your play sparked the whole team. I just can’t tell you how proud of you I am.” A gem can not be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials. Chinese proverb.

Quick hitters. In addition to the highest score ever recorded at UC stadium, fans saw the first offensive center to be credited with a reception on a two-point play. Illegal of course but consistent with the officiating throughout the game…Kendrick Brewton had a great night with a recovered fumble and an interception… “They are really, really soft,” said Dwight Brannon to an agreeing Marcus Whitener, early in the first quarter… there were several instances where the 25 second clock ran out before Blue Ridge could snap the ball but the officials never saw it (Do we need a very large clock?)… “There’s too much talk,” said one Jacket at the half. “Just go out an do it.”… Kelvin Hardy had emotional valley and peak experiences as he was flagged for roughing the kicker (who was running, making him a ball carrier and fair game) and then grabbed the game-ending interception... coach Maness bragged on how wide receivers Kierre Smith, Jeremy Porter, and Tyler Funderburg ran their routes and blocked, enabling Whitener and Brannon to break loose… reportedly the game tape has been sent to the High School League for review because of the deplorable officiating…according to former Jacket coach Mike Anthony , the referee was officiating his first game at Union because he had been “blackballed” by coach Shell Dula and Anthony. Everyone in the stands now knows why…junior defensive end Tevin Thompson got his first varsity start of the year and played very well according to defensive coordinator Jay Brannon… Kelvin Booker was also cited for his unselfish attitude about playing a different defensive assignment which put other defensive players in a better position to make the play rather than him…the Jacket defense tried every defensive scheme they had practiced since spring practice in an effort to stop Blue Ridge …the last one did.

Epilogue. Fall down seven, get up eight. Japanese saying.

The journey continues. J. L Mann. Be there.



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