Technically, by a Governor’s decree, on Friday everybody in South Carolina was required to acknowledge the success of Clinton High School Red Devil Football. Certainly, our friends in Laurens, Newberry and Union County had no interest in doing that.
And, equally certainly, the Chapman Panthers weren’t in the mood to offer that respect. They came to town determined to spoil a Clinton home game, just like they did two seasons ago, snatching a region championship in the process. Clinton got sweet revenge - twice - last season, on its way to a 13-1 record.
But, Sept. 15 wasn’t about them; it was all about US.
A 2023 Red Devil football team that with :00 on the game clock still had a chance to beat a Chapman team that earlier in the season had shocked Class AAAAA Byrnes.
A 1923 Red Devil football team that humbly asked the greater Clinton community for equipment money so they could field an entire season on the gridiron. Their request? $150. This newspaper printed a running list of the people and businesses that contributed.
Certainly, it costs more than $150 nowadays to run a football program; however, what hasn’t changed? Young men still dream of gridiron glory, and parents still flinch at the sight of every big hit.
And, something else you could tell from a jam-packed Clinton Middle School gym last Friday evening - players remember their coaches, and the community remembers its players. For as Governor Henry McMaster’s official proclamation says:
Whereas, one hundred years ago, in 1923, the Clinton High School Red Devils football team played their first full season; and Whereas, exceptional leadership within the school’s administration and on the football field have been paramount in reaching this milestone; and Whereas, this one hundred year anniversary offers a special opportunity for members of the Clinton Community to take part in a season-long celebration to commemorate this achievement; and Whereas, the Clinton vs Chapman home game on September 15 is the official game night celebration of this anniversary; and Whereas, the Clinton High School Booster Club invites all generations of Red Devil football teams to reconnect and celebrate this momentous occasion. Now, therefore, I, Henry McMaster, Governor of the great State of South Carolina, do hereby proclaim September 15, 2023 as 100th Anniversary of the Clinton High School Red Devil Football Team throughout the state and encourage all South Carolinians to join together in congratulating all of the Clinton High School Red Devils football teams for their contributions to a century of football history.”
It turned out to be a mixed weekend for football: Clinton and Laurens lost by a total of 4 points, and Laurens Academy fell to Wardlaw; however, Thornwell Charter School rang the Victory Bell for the first time in varsity since 2006, and Presbyterian College stunned Wofford with 28 seconds on the clock in Spartanburg.
100th Anniversary of Clinton High School Football --- Halftime Script written by District 56 Superintendent Dr. David O’Shields (Clinton High School graduate, 1975)
Tonight, we want to look back on the history of 100 years of Red Devil football. In 1923, the first season of Red Devil football kicked off with Jodie Lollis as coach, followed by Coaches Lever, Shannon, and McQueen from 1923 to 1934.
In 1939, Clinton High won its first state championship, defeating Lake View. R.P. Wilder was the coach of this incredible team. Tonight, we have Richard Willingham, the oldest living Clinton High School football player from the 1943 team. Let’s give a round of applause to Mr. Willingham. He is still a spry 98 years old. In addition, on the field, we have Mac Young and Coach Andy B. Young standing in for their fathers, who were members of the 1939 state championship team Andy B. Young Sr. and Odus Young.
In fact, Wilder Stadium received its name as a tribute to the coach who brought Clinton its first state championship.
During the 1940s and ’50s, in addition to Coach R.P. Wilder, Clinton High had varying degrees of success under the hands of Coaches Martin, Shealy, Burnette, Thornton, and Tedards. Coach Tedards’ daughter, Beverly, is in attendance here tonight.
In 1960, a new coach came in named Claude Howe. Coach Howe led the Red Devils to additional acclaim, playing for the state championship in 1961 and an all-time classic against Woodruff in 1965 in a torrential downpour. Although Clinton didn’t win these games, the teams of this time are represented by an all-time great, Kinard Littleton, who is with us tonight. He scored the VERY first touchdown in this VERY stadium. If you played football for Clinton High in the 1960s, please stand, and let’s give a round of applause to Mr. Littleton and any other Red Devil greats.
In 1969, Coach Keith Richardson took the helm of the Red Devils and stayed for 24 years. Red Devil football reached a peak of continued success, winning state titles in the 1970s and 1980s, in fact, six state championships. This success was only achieved with the integration and support of the many athletes and coaches from Bell Street High School, the all-black high school that combined with Clinton High School in 1970. In three short years, old Bell Street and Clinton High School students combined to win the second of its eight state championships. In 1972, CHS went 11-0-1 and defeated Hanahan in the state championship held in Greenwood. Team captains were Robert Scott, Jimmy Armstrong, Kevin Long, and the late Charles Norman. Joining us tonight on the field are Robert Scott and Jimmy Armstrong.
In 1973 and 1974, Clinton went undefeated during the regular season and lost only to Fort Johnson and James Island, respectively. In 1975, the magic returned with a come-from-behind victory over Myrtle Beach for Clinton’s third state championship. Captains for this team who are with us tonight are Jimmy Miller, Roy Walker, and Roscoe Watson (standing in for the late Roscoe Watson is his brother, Curtis Watson).
A single year lapsed, and then in 1977 and again in 1978, Clinton High School won their fourth and fifth state championships in thrilling fashion both times against James Island, who had dethroned the Red Devils effort in 1973. The 1977 team went undefeated, finished 14-0, and was the AP South Carolina All-Classifications Team of the Year. Representatives of the 1977 team who are with us tonight are Al Roebuck and Gilbert Robinson. Also to be recognized are the late Alan Hunnicutt and Stanley Taylor.
In 1978, after an early loss to Woodruff, the Red Devils reeled off 13 straight wins and another state championship. Captains of this team who are with us tonight include Ronald Swindler and JD Fuller, who still holds the University of South Carolina’s record as an All-Time Leading Tackler. Any football player who played on any team during the glorious decade of the 1970s, please stand.
Although Clinton did not play for the state championship again until 1983, the teams did incredibly well during that time. A state championship loss to Myrtle Beach ended an otherwise excellent season in 1983.
The sixth state championship occurred only two years later. The 1985 team joined the 1977 team as undefeated state champions with a 14-0 campaign over Middleton High School. Joining us tonight from this team are quarterback Ricky Vance and offensive lineman Joe Farmer.
The seventh state championship occurred in 1987. This outstanding team defeated Marion High School. The captains of this team who are with us tonight are Eric Peake and Al Richard. Al Richard went on to a great career with the Clemson Tigers, who won two ACC championships.
If anyone who played during the Richardson era from 1969-1992 is present tonight, please stand. We would like to recognize the accomplishments of Coach Keith Richardson. This field, Richardson Field, is named in his honor.
After the 1992 season, Coach Richardson retired. Coach Andy B Young took the helm and led the 1993 team to the state championship in his first year. Although the team did not win the state, Coach Young showcased the continuation of the winning tradition under Coach Richardson early on. Coach Young’s team again played for the state championship in 2005 and 2009. In Coach Young’s last season in 2009, the team won the state against a highly touted Myrtle Beach squad, capping off the eighth state championship. The captains of this team who are with us tonight are Deon Speaks and Tahvazia Booker. At this time, we would like to recognize Coach Andy B. Young and Coach Bill Rhodes for their lifetime of coaching together.
Anyone who played from 1993-2009, this being the Andy B. Young era, please stand.
Clinton High School continued to play competitive football under the direction of Coaches King, Webb, and currently Coach Fountain, earning numerous spots in the playoffs. If you played for any of these coaches from 2010 to 2022, please stand and be recognized.
We would be remiss if we didn’t recognize the many other moving parts of a successful football season. First, we want to thank the many cheerleaders and PomPom girls who provided enthusiasm and spirit over the years. If there are any former Clinton High or Bell Street High cheerleaders in attendance, please stand and be recognized at this time.
Further, we want to thank our CHS Devil Regiment Band for their hard work and dedication to making Wilder Stadium come alive on Friday nights. The musicians battle the heat and work long hours learning their sophisticated shows. If anyone in the stands was ever a part of the CHS Devil Regiment, please stand.
Although head coaches get the recognition, assistant coaches are the team’s lifeblood. We are eternally grateful for the steadying hand of the nearly countless number of assistant coaches. Of particular note are Ed Little and Harold Williams, who came over with the Bell Street teams in 1970 and provided a strong foundation of unity and purpose that transcended the football field. Harold Williams’ daughter, Kim Williams-Carter, is with us tonight. If any other assistant coaches served Clinton High School or Bell Street High School here tonight, please stand.
An often overlooked part of the football season is the referees. Games can’t be played without the officials. We are privileged to have Mr. Truman Owens here representing the officials tonight. Mr. Owens is a South Carolina High School Officials’ Hall of Fame member. He has officiated more games in Wilder Stadium than any official in the state.
Finally, and most importantly, none of this would be possible without our own “twelfth man,” our fans. The fans are the intangible force providing that extra ounce of effort and that steadying force in good times or bad.
Governor Henry McMaster has officially proclaimed September 15, 2023, the 100th Anniversary of the Clinton High School Red Devils Football Team.
A celebration of the 100th anniversary would only be complete by acknowledging our current football coach, Coach Corey Fountain (right).
Coach Fountain and his staff keep the spirit and love of Clinton football alive. He truly exemplifies the “Pride of Clinton.” Tonight, everyone here is a big part of our tradition.
We are Red Devil nation!