Saturday, October 25, 2008
High School Friday Nights: Southside Christian at Ware Shoals
First, I want to thank Ware Shoals head football coach Jeff Murdock for allowing Voting under the Influence pre game locker room access and sideline access during the game. While most media sources pay attention to the big schools and the football that they play, which is admittedly outstanding in South Carolina, there is plenty of action and talent at the small school level. Further, the games often seem more interesting at the A or AA level because communities identify so much with the coaches and players on the field.
Ware Shoals is a perfect example of that identification of the community with the players and coaches. On a damp, dreary, chilly night, the home crowd turnout was not bad for a game against a weaker opponent. Those fans were not disappointed.
Before the game in the locker room, Coach Murdock warned his team against looking ahead to the next game instead of concentrating on Southside Christian. The hornets then took the field with one the more interesting entrances in all of high school football. (A side note, one of the lines posted in the locker/weight room is "I can't is not spoken here." )
The simple weight room/locker room of Ware Shoals is on the second floor of an old rough stone building facing Tommy Davis Field. The building has a second floor balcony that wraps around it to the stairs leading to the field. With music playing, the players exit the rear door to the balcony and walk the length of the balcony around to the stairs as a smoke machine does its job. I had the chance to make the walk behind the team as they walked around the balcony. The Ware Shoals entrance has that element of motivation, such as with Clemson's hill, that comes with looking down on your opponent as you prepare to meet them. It is one of those gems of tradition that often can be found at small high schools.
Once Ware Shoals took the field, Coach Murdock and his staff did not have to worry long about whether or not the Hornets were worried about their next game. The Hornets had Southside Christian on their minds. The Hornets defense dominated the Sabres offense as the Hornets raced to a 28-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. Two of the touchdowns scored by the Hornets were runs of 52 and 54 yards by Lance Richardson. The Hornets went up 35-0 about a minute or so into the second quarter, essentially ending the competitive game. From that point forward, the Hornets played their reserves and the game became a teaching experience for the coaches. The end result was 48-7. To Ware Shoals's credit, they made an effort to not embarrass the Southside Christian kids.
Southside Christian went to 0-9 on the season, but to the credit of their coaches and players, they played motivated even while completely out of the game. Some of their fans have to be noted as well. It seems some of them found a way to get a tailgating tent into the game and place it in the visitors stands to stay dry under. In my years of covering high school football back in the 1990s and during this year's VUI coverage, I have never seen anything like that.
Let's take a look at the overall picture. As they were on the road, the Ware Shoals fans are well behaved. You can take your kids to a game without worry. The concession stand is good, with hot dogs that rival Dixie's and real bottled soft drinks, not flat drinks poured over melting ice in paper cups. The parking is not bad, but if it is a big game and you show up just before kickoff, be prepared to walk a bit as the stadium sits behind Ware Shoals High School. Also be prepared to walk down two flights of stairs to the stadium. Those of you, who like me, have a bum knee, need to wear your knee brace or support bandage.
Once you get into the stadium, you will see a group of competitive and motivated young people led by a seemingly no-nonsense coaching staff dedicated to executing the old school wing-t offense to perfection and coupling it with a strong defense. In other words, you will get your $6 worth if you are looking for old fashioned football played in a small town setting.
Next week, VUI will be back in Ware Shoals for a Halloween night match up between Ware Shoals and Ninety Six for the conference championship. The next week, November 7th, VUI plans to be at Irmo for the AAAA traditional rivalry match up against Dutch Fork.