Inside the Swarm - Clinton



By: Paul L. Davis

“We peaked this week at practice,” began coach David Lipsey. “Monday is a tough day because we are introducing new stuff on offense and defense, and special teams. This team could go all the way if you REFUSE to get beat. Those past State Championship teams were tough rascals who, as a group, would not get beat.

            “Good football teams go to the playoffs and some good football teams go home. How many games are decided by the failure to execute fundamentals? Little things make the difference in winning and loosing. Little things make success in life as well. You are one of the top eight teams in South Carolina tonight.”

            Following coach Lipsey’s remarks, UCHS principal Joe Walker began the devotion by telling the players that he just learned that the son of a friend of his in Laurens had just died. “He found his son dead. His heart just gave out,” continued Walker . “My friend was a principal and coach and had a great season. His son had muscular dystrophy and was told that he would live to be eighteen. He died at age 26.

            “He went to college and became a preacher. In one service, sitting in a wheel chair, he told the congregation about the joy in his life. I gotta tell you that is something special.

            “The other morning, Derrick Means (who is physically challenged) got off the bus and hollered, ‘Good morning, Mr. Walker’ as he walked to the cafeteria. You need to think of Derrick every time you are inclined to have a pity party. Everyone has talent and has something they are gifted to do.

            “I played college basketball but I didn’t play a lot of minutes. I saw my role as someone who would help make the team better. I didn’t have a ‘pity party’ because I didn’t get a chance to play as much as I wanted to. Not getting to play doesn’t come close to what others experience or have to do, like Derrick.

            “In Ephesians 6: 10-18, the apostle Paul says that we are in a spiritual war and that we have to put on the whole armor of God.” He went on to point out how this was similar to their football equipment.

            “I’d be lying if I told you that I have never been scared or afraid. This game and this time of your life should be a time of celebration of your talent and ability. You should have fun playing. Knock them down. Nothing illegal or after the whistle.

            “You know when you are having fun. And of course you want to win. But, God doesn’t count wins and losses. The wins and loses of great coaches don’t count as far as God is concerned.

            “It ought to be a celebration tonight. What are your responsibilities? If one person here tonight can’t be trusted to take care of their responsibilities, it might not be worth the trip to Clinton .

            “I was with a basketball team which, before the game, got into a circle on the court and each member of the team, in turn, turned to the player beside them and promised him, “I’ll do my job.” That team won the biggest game of the season that night. It was the game of the year.

            “You are here because you want to play the game. I am here for all 1292 of you, and the teachers, the staff, and the custodians. You are part of my family.”

With the offense. The darkened room was silent as the offense awaited coach Maness and the other offensive coaches. (The defense was listing to rap.) Offensive coordinator Dave Maness wrote two words on the board: “Significant” – “Successful.”

            “I read a lot,” began Manes, “ and a lot of it is coaching stuff, like coach Holtz.

What do we mean by being ‘successful?’ A winning season? Well, we are 7-4. We have a winning season. But is that ‘significant?’ Something that is ‘significant’ will be remembered a long time. Is reaching the 3rd round ‘significant’? Fourth round? State Championship? Seniors, this is your year. What do you want to leave? A ‘successful’ season or a ‘significant’ season?

            “Mr. Walker had a good devotional. How many of you have the guts to look at each other and tell him, ‘I’ll do my job?’ Are you willing to be held accountable? We have talked about circling the wagons, turning your backs to the inside, knowing that your teammate has your back. Tonight’s the night. Be one heartbeat. We have to take it. They are gonna fight. Can you say, ‘I’ll do my job’ to the team tonight? Everyone on this team has a role.”

            Coach Bryan Robinson began by telling the offense that it was time to go to work. “Seniors, you decide when we play our last game. They won’t give it to us. Be ready to play. I’ve seen you grow to where you are a good offense. Seniors, remember our last trip to Clinton . We owe the defense one. Offensive line, get your pads lower than theirs. I’m proud of you.”

In the gym. “Special teams be ready to play,” began Lipsey. “Execute. You gotta do it on the field. Go get it. Compete on every play. You have to play four quarters. We won three quarters the last game but we need four tonight. All it takes to win tonight is all you’ve got.”

Before the kickoff. “We’ll take the football,” began Lipsey. “Keep your head on, don’t loose your cool. Remember the feeling you had when you walked off the field the last time. You win and you move on. Make plays. Rule the line. Everything we have done comes down to this.” The players were so anxious to get started that the coaches had to call them back.

At the half. “We’re in a fight,” shouted Lipsey. “You’ve gotta scratch and fight. It’s zero-zero. Finish them tonight. Seniors, you’ve gotta fight for it. Don’t let this be your last game.” A lot of players were shouting, “Zero-zero.”

Quick hitters. Coach Dave Maness remarked how proud he was of the entire offensive effort, particularly the lack of turnovers…on the way out of the gym, Lamont Edney was shouting, “Four more weeks, coach.”… signs along the road approaching Clinton : “Beware the devil”...”Want more?”… "Burn Jackets, burn”… a minor error on Danny Grady’s shaved number on his head reported last week. Due to a poorly shaved “1” his number appeared to be “4” instead of “14”… his barber regrets the error… getting taped is a routine part of a football player’s ritual, but Buzz, the Jacket mascot? were Marcus Lott, Sam Hammond, Marcus Whitener and Dwight Brannon… WBCU on-field reporters remarked that there was so much trash talk going on between the two sets of co-captains that it was hard to hear the referee…coach Jay Brannon was all smiles over the hard work and attitude of linebacker T. T. Burros: “I can put him in any linebacker position and we don’t loose a thing.”…Kierre Smith has developed into a go-to receiver and has grabbed several passes when covered closely by the defensive back…Marcus Lott made a key fumble recovery in the first half… Dwight Brannon’s running has energized the offense as seen with his running for over 100 yards, 60 of those on one TD run…perhaps the key defensive play in the game was Sam Hammond’s tackle for loss with Clinton facing a third down and three, deep in Union territory with just a couple minutes left, leaving them with a fourth and five which they didn’t make, giving Union the ball and the game…after the game, several Jackets were singing, “I love football, yes I do”… sometimes pre-game signs can come back to haunt the author. Tevin Thompson grabbed one of Clinton ’s signs and carried it on the bus. The sign: “Bye Bye Jackets.”… bye bye Clinton…as the team approached the City of Union, they were escorted by three police cruisers as they made a run down Main Street before heading out to the high school…defensive back Eric Bates’ surgery was successful…Josh  Thompson caught the hair fad and shaved his number, “48” into the back of his head.

The Journey continues. Greenville. Be there.

© Paul L Davis, 14 Nov, 2007


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