Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, September 7, 2015, 3:57 p.m.
On Friday night, the Clinton High School state championship teams of 1975 and 1985 were supposed to be honored in halftime ceremonies at Wilder Stadium. Because of lightning, wind, rain, postponement and an abbreviated halftime on Saturday, it never happened. For the benefit of those teams, here’s what I had been planning to say over the public-address system:
In the nearly century-long history of football at Clinton High School, eight Red Devil teams have won state championships. The first was in 1939. The most recent? 2009. All but the first were in Class 3A. Tonight it is our distinct honor to recognize two of those glorious teams on the anniversaries of their titles.
For the record, the eight Red Devil championships took place in 1939, 1972, 1975, 1977, 1978, 1985, 1987, and 2009. It’s been forty years since that 1975 championship and thirty since 1985. The head coach of those teams — and four more — was Keith Richardson. That field is named for him, and all the folks gathered on it right now are very familiar with it. Among them are Andy B. Young, Harold Williams, and Bill Rhodes, who helped coach both the teams honored tonight.
A state championship requires sacrifice that goes far beyond the players and the coaches. Tonight we wish to honor cheerleaders, band members, mascots, managers and trainers, people from the community who walked the sidelines, stretched the chains, announced the games, ran the scoreboard, and, just as important, sat in these concrete grandstands and cheered the team on. All the people who did their part in those great seasons, please stand now.
It takes a village, and not just one. The high school is named for Clinton, but it draws from Joanna, Mountville, Cross Hill, the banks of Lake Greenwood, and all the people who live in town or out in the country. These teams’ great hearts beat in many places.
The grandstand in which most of you are sitting opened in 1975. Prior to that, the home side was across the way.
The 1975 Red Devils were captained by Roscoe Watson, Roy Walker, and Jimmy Miller. Other team members were Randy Humphries, Dillard Young, Ricky Gary, Terry Sanders, Levi Adams, Jeff Howe, Dale Westermeier, Tommy Jones, Ben Pitts, Cal Gault, Mike Riser, Jimmy Webb, J.T. Coleman, Monte Dutton, Dennis Calhoun, Johnny Dowdle, Tony Hunnicutt, C.W. Wilson, David Wayne Goggins, Bobby Fuller, Gerry Gilliam, Vince Brewer, Ray Riley, Chris Williams, Glenn Shealy, Tommy Simmons, Denny Layne, Mitchell Scott, James Butler, Donnie Humphries, Mike Johnson, Shawn Venable, Jerry Catoe, James Suber, John Henry Sanders, Ben DuBose, Calvin Suber, Phillip Saunders, Derwent Long, Mike Chuvala, Roosevelt Ferguson, Reese Young, Kim Carper, Binky Shealy and Richard Robinson.
Roscoe Watson was named state Lineman of the Year for the second season in a row. Roy Walker and Roosevelt Ferguson were named all-state. The defense yielded only 852 yards rushing in the entire season and shut out six of its fourteen opponents.
Though Clinton lost the final regular-season game to Byrnes and failed to win its conference for the first time since 1971, the Red Devils rolled through the playoffs with victories over Andrew Jackson, 7-0, Pickens, 21-7, and Lexington, 37-6, in the upper state championship, played here at Wilder Stadium.
The championship game was played in Myrtle Beach, where the Seahawks led 6-0 at halftime, but Clinton came from behind in the second half on a run by Ricky Gary and a pass from Jimmy Miller to Denny Layne, and the final score was Clinton 14, Myrtle Beach 6.
Myrtle Beach running back Lester Brown, who later starred at Clemson, gained two net yards against the Red Devil defense.
This was a team that fought back against adversity over and over. On the night before Labor Day, Mike Johnson was killed in an automobile accident. The team dedicated the season to his memory.
Coach Richardson called it “a clannish team, a team that took great pride in what they were doing. … They didn’t make a lot of waves, didn’t make a lot of noise, but played extremely well.”
In fact, Coach Richardson said that the state championship teams of 1975 and 1985 were alike in many ways. When the latter team won its state championship, it was the school’s first in seven years. It was a throwback to the 1970s. The year before, the team had failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 1971.
The 1985 Red Devils were co-captained by Ricky Vance, who would later play baseball in the Montreal Expos minor-league system, and Brian Pitts, who played on a national championship team at Furman.
Other team members were Tyrone Chalmers, Jeff Price, Bernard Thompson, Dennis Anderson, Chuck Wilson, Anthony Conway, Thomas Cheeks, Mike Wilkins, Norman Cromer, Johnny Babb, Melvin Bluford, Danny Cook, Andrew Carter, Derrick Booker, Rod Miller, Kevin Emory, John Tiller, Jeff Davenport, Joel Crawford, Mike Seigler, Jeff Mitchum, Harrison Vance, John Cunningham, James Cunningham, George Williams, Travis Roberson, Joe Farmer, Scott Smith, Al Richard, Terry McGowan, Fred Booker, Charles Williams, Quincy Suber, Alex Riley, and Andrew Williams.
Brian Pitts and Ricky Vance played in the Shrine Bowl, while James Cunningham and Jeff Price played in the North-South Game.
Although Woodruff, quarterbacked by future Notre Dame star Tony Rice, won the opening game, 20-13, in overtime, the Wolverines were later forced to forfeit that game for using an ineligible player. As a result, the Red Devil record would wind up being 14-0.
In the playoffs, Clinton defeated Wren, 6-0; Seneca, 13-10, in overtime at Clemson’s Death Valley; and, Carolina, 24-7, in the upperstate championship.
Norman Cromer, who gained 165 yards in 31 carries in the upperstate championship game, followed it up with 165 more, in 27 carries, scoring three touchdowns in the Red Devils’ 30-0 shutout of Middleton in the state championship game at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia. Clinton led that game, 27-0, at halftime.
Please honor these great representatives of Clinton High School history with a rousing ovation.
The events in my second novel, The Intangibles, were inspired in part by events in my hometown back in the day. If you’re interested in reading a fictional tale of small-town high school football in the late 1960s, you can buy it here: http://www.amazon.com/Intangibles-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00ISJ18Z6/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8