It's a shame the Bronze Derby is no more
You know what’s a dang shame? It’s a dang shame the 2005 South Atlantic Conference Champion Presbyterian College football team couldn’t walk over to the trophy case in Templeton Center and take out the Bronze Derby.
That team won the derby in 2005, 38-7. Now the Bronze Derby, for some reason, is in the trophy case at Eleazer Arena, 20 miles from Clinton (take Hwy 76 east, turn right on College Street and you’re there).
My Bronze Derby memories are all fuzzy now, because I have an old brain, but the last Derby game I remember clearly must have been 2002. It ended up 14-10 PC, and everybody wanted to fight. I got a picture of Mike Taylor, who I went to school with at Newberry, stalking toward the Blue Hose sideline with both fists clinched. He was looking for the referee.
I single-handedly stopped a Newberry running back from doubling back on his way to the bus and finding some Blue Hose he’d been up against all day. He wanted them to settle it like two men - I knew, if I didn’t hold him, he would be arrested for assault. And the Clinton jail was no fit place for a Newberry Indian (as we were called back in the day).
The 2005 Presbyterian College football team had a great time being honored at halftime at a game during the 2015 season.
Two of their members are coaches now for Blue Hose football.
The team waited on the track after halftime for them to emerge from Yonce Field House. Their head coach for the 2005 season, Tommy Spangler, didn’t want anything to do with them at that moment. He had a defense to coach in the second half - 10 years after head coaching these guys standing on the track to an 11-win season, some of those wins right here on this field at Bailey Memorial Stadium.
The Bronze Derby dated to Oct. 29, 1913. Newberry beat PC twice that season, both by 51-0 scores. The Blue Hose bounced back, and own a 55-33-5 edge in wins, because the game ended Nov. 11, 2006 - a 10-0 PC win (there were no games in 1914 and 1918 - something about football almost getting banned in South Carolina because it was too violent). The Bronze Derby game the year I was born was one of those five ties - 7-7.
This is rich football.
This is college football at its most basic form.
Two schools, 20 miles apart. Most of the time playing for pride only, although the Wolves (as Newberry is called in modern day) did make the national playoffs this season.
As I was writing this column in early November, my alma mater (Newberry, Class of 1975) was preparing for a milestone football game. Nov. 7, 2015 was the 1,000th football game in the Indians/Wolves incredibly rich football history.
Clinton High School passed the milestone the season before. 1,000 games - at 10 to 11 games per season. Not the NFL’s 16 games - thank goodness - that leaves the players spent, weak and concussed by the end of the season (if they make it that far - think Peyton Manning). No research has been done as to how many football games a human body can stand in the course of consecutive, or nearly consecutive with a bye week thrown in, weeks but I would suspect 11 is just about right.
Harken back to Nov. 11, 1913. Newberry defeated Presbyterian College 51-0 on the football field. It was the second win by The Redmen against the Blue Hose by that score that season.
Fast-forward to Nov. 7, 2015 Newberry played Limestone in its 1,000th game. The Gaffney college got its football program started two seasons ago. Newberry beat them 70-20 the season before in a game that lapped over into the wee hours of Sunday morning. The Saints were better this season, but the game wasn’t be what it could be.
It’s a pity. It really is.
With just a little schedule looking-ahead, that Nov. 7, 2015 game -- that milestone game for the Indians/Wolves -- could have been Newberry vs Presbyterian (the Blue Hose was playing in-conference in Lynchburg, Va., that day).
There are a hundred reasons why Newberry and PC are not playing in football (or basketball) - there's just one good reason why they should renew their gridiron rivalry.
It can never again be a Thanksgiving Day game.
NCAA football playoffs have taken care of that. Division I-A and Division II (I never can remember those letter things the NCAA uses) have to get their playoff rankings done before Thanksgiving so they can have a post-season.
Newberry won Nov. 7 and then won its season finale at Wingate, the Wolves finished the regular season 7-4. They were 3-3 in their conference as things stood on Nov. 4 and closing out with a win streak meant the team qualified for the DII playoffs.
Newberry was 17 points away from converting its four losses to wins. The Wolves lost three games by 3 to 4 points, Carson-Newman (a DII school that gets the University of Tennessee’s hand-me-downs) beat them by 7.
In the two games leading up to its milestone 1,000th game, Newberry scored 93 points - and gave up 21. Newberry had South Carolina's top yardage-gaining running back this past season.
Saturday, Nov. 7, noon at Setzler Field, it was Military Appreciation Day and Senior Day. Senior football players, cheerleaders and Scarlet Poms were recognized pre-game. Senior members of the marching band were recognized at halftime.
It wasn't on TV.
It didn’t draw a massive crowd.
It wouldn’t draw a massive crowd if it had been Newberry-PC, either. But I betcha, it would have sold out - and it would have been a great challenge for the Blue Hose on both sides of the ball.
It would be a game I certainly would want to see.
I certainly would want to see a test of the Blue Hose, to see if the team truly has made the jump to DI - true DI teams always beat DII teams (except for App State and Michigan, and this past season an almost, Jacksonville State and Auburn). The DIs just have bigger, stronger, more determined student-athletes - true DI teams recruit on a national scale, DII teams take what’s around them.
Could the “home boys” of Newberry hang with the nationally recruited Blue Hose?
You tell me - Newberry was 17 points away from an undefeated regular season. To some football purists that would mean one thing - the Wolves can’t close the deal. When you get in those 3 point - 4 point games, you MUST close the deal. Hit a fly pattern. Snag a pick six. Something.
Really good teams do something to win those close games.
Really good teams want to play each other. It’s a test of manhood.
Really good teams want those Backyard Brawls, those bragging rights - really good teams want to hoist those ridiculous-looking trophies.
Only one team is going to hoist that crystal trophy - that trophy that will be played for later this month. Just four DI teams were granted the privilege of playing for it, including Clemson.
All the rest of us were playing for something else.
What that something else is, I’ll let you decide.
(Updates from Nov. 7: Newberry 47, Limestone 7. Liberty 21, Presbyterian 13; Nov. 14: Newberry 24, Wingate 0. Monmouth 21, PC 16. Wolves closed out the regular season with a four-game win streak, qualified for the Division II national championship tournament second time in three years. Nov. 21: North Alabama 50, Newberry 7 - the Wolves were out in first round DII playoffs, finishing 7-5. PC 14, Kennesaw State 6, the Blue Hose finished 2-9.)
(Vic MacDonald covers sports for The Clinton Chronicle. Contact him at 833-1900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)