Red Devils and Raiders and Never the Twain Shall Meet

CHS's: Clinton in white and Chapin in blue. (Monte Dutton photos)

CHS’s: Clinton in white and Chapin in blue. (Monte Dutton photos)


Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, December 19, 2015, 11:32 a.m.

Monte Dutton

Monte Dutton

Before Friday night, my last three assignments had been in Laurens. That’s the county seat. Laurens District 55 High School drains the northern part of the county. (Forgive me for describing school enrollment like a watershed.) Clinton High School drains the south and is District 56, though not by title.

Maybe it’s because Highway 56 runs through here, too, and it might be confusing.


I am both a Laurens Countian and a Clintonian. In fact, Clintonian is written on some yearbooks I have somewhere because I am a CHS graduate and “my love for Clinton High School will nehhhhh-verrrr faaiilll.”

DSCF1473I bet there are more CHS graduates than any other. That’s because there are many CHS’s. Clinton played one (Chapin) last night. On the other hand, LDHS stands alone a bit better. Sure, Lake Dallas High School is in Corinth, Texas, and Lower Dauphin High School in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania, but they are relatively rare.

Personally, when I’m in Laurens, I feel right at home, but in Clinton, I am home.

Much is the same. At both places, I stand around in the corner of the gym, next to an exit, and chat with the athletics director, though it happens to be David Barnes in Clinton and Mark Freeze in Laurens. I’ve known both for 30 years or thereabouts. I’m getting acquainted with the people who keep score in both gyms.

DSCF1477I once enjoyed talking with Clinton’s boys’ basketball coach, Tosh Corley, on the sidelines late in football games while he played for the Red Devils and I was writing about them. Chris Wofford, the girls’ coach, is also a familiar face and a good guy.

I’d never met the Laurens coaches, Ben Sinclair with the boys and Yoneko Allen with the girls, until a few weeks ago, but I’m getting to know and like them. All have been cooperative as I’ve reacquainted myself with high school sports after The NASCAR Years (1993-2012), which I spent with a diverse band of gypsies.

DSCF1481The Red Devil boys (5-2) have lost only to the Raiders (7-2), and since Clinton is a 3A school and Laurens is 4A, it isn’t surprising to most people who aren’t from Clinton. LDHS is improving rapidly at the moment, as demonstrated in recent victories over the previously unbeaten teams of Byrnes and Hillcrest.

In the past week, Clinton has defeated Chapin twice, 45-35 and 57-44. The Red Devils are improving, too, but they’re not as cohesive as the Raiders. Last night, after the game was over (and I had driven halfway home before realizing that I hadn’t copied crucial details from the scorebook), I remarked to Corley that sometimes it looks like his players are bound and determined to beat the player guarding them but less interested in beating the team they are playing. It shows they have pride and spirit, but it needs to be redirected a bit.

DSCF1472He just nodded, taking it in, as coaches are wont to do. The general pattern is for Corley to say, in general, Why, that’s true, but we’re getting better, and it is an accurate assessment. The team is a stagecoach pulled by unruly horses, and Corley has to spend a lot of time pulling on reins and yelling Whoa! Last night, guarding a lead in the fourth quarter, he yelled Whoa! (italics denote “not really”) on his offense and did so successfully, which mildly surprised and impressed me.

DSCF1465Here’s what I wrote about Friday night’s games:

DSCF1458The Clinton girls play hard but mostly in vain. They are defensively determined and offensively unpolished. Last night they shot 20 percent from the field and lost, 38-17, to Chapin. Wofford and his charges are doing the best with what they have, and there is honor in that.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow foretold the story of the Laurens girls:

There was a little girl / And she had a little curl / Right in the middle of her forehead / And when she was good / She was very, very good / And when she was bad she was horrid.

DSCF1460At LDHS, it isn’t just one little girl. In Longfellow’s defense, he died in 1882.

I have seen the Raiders play well, and listened as Coach Allen expressed her satisfaction, and I have seen the Raiders play badly, and Coach Allen and I have been similarly mystified by what unseen force was throwing shots and passes wildly off course.

Perhaps the New Year will instill some sense of normality.


(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

I like young people, though it doesn’t bother me that I don’t have any. They pop up, flawed and dysfunctional, in my novels and short stories. I’m too old for them to relate to me, but I try to relate to them.

My novel, Crazy of Natural Causes, has kids who actually shape their coach, Chance Benford, about as much as he shapes them. Consider it here. You can buy it electronically. In other words, what a gift for someone you just remembered!

(Melanie Ryon cover design)

(Melanie Ryon cover design)

The Intangibles is built upon a foundation of kids, black and white, trying to make sense out of 1968 in a southern town.

(Joe Font cover design)

(Joe Font cover design)

The Audacity of Dope has an older hero, Riley Mansfield, but that doesn’t mean he’s grown up.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Forgive Us Our Trespasses, which will be out early in 2016, has sort of a dual narrative, one involving corrupt grown-ups and the other involving their corrupt kids. It’s going to be messy.

Follow my fiction blog,, for short stories, book reviews and blogs on writing.


About Monte

For 20 seasons, I mostly wrote about NASCAR. I'm still paying attention, but I'm spending more of my time these days writing novels and songs. I try to blog regularly on whatever happens to strike my fancy.
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