Tidbits - December 5, 2019

TIDBITS by RALPH SHEALY



DREAM GAME II

  It is isn’t often in one’s life, you can watch your team achieve a dream win in one week, then follow that up with another dream win the next, but that is exactly what Saluda High’s coaches and players have supplied.
  In back-to-back games the Tigers defeated the number three team in 2A, Southside Christian,  56-42, and the top team in 2A, Abbeville. 32-28. The win over the Panthers gives the Tigers a chance to beat the number two team, Barnwell, in the state championship game.
  I need to mention, because they lost their last two games of the regular season, the Tigers are unranked. Officially, now, they can finish no lower than second.
  It has been a remarkable season for the Tigers. Both Southside Christian and Abbeville beat Saluda in the regular season, so those teams were obviously favored in the rematches, because SCA was 11-1 and Abbeville was 12-0.
  I wrote in my November 7 column, “I firmly believe the Tigers are good enough to beat Southside Christian and Abbeville if they meet again, but they have to play error free.”
  The Tigers had no turnovers against Southside Christian, but against Abbeville they had three turnovers and two dropped passes in the first half, and were down 14-3.
  Abbeville increased the lead to 21-3 on the first drive of the second half. Abbeville doesn’t lose with an 18-point lead in the third quarter, and the Panthers certainly don’t lose with an 11-point lead with eight minutes to go in the game.
  Abbeville lost.
  The character and senior leadership of the team came shining through against the best team in the state. The Tigers forced Abbeville to become human.
  Since 2015, Abbeville had turned the ball over only four times in their games against Saluda. They turned it over four times in the second half against the Tigers Friday.
  The Panthers finished with 295-yards rushing, but only got 105 in the second half.
  While the defense was holding Abbeville, the Tigers offense scored 29 points.
  It was another dream game win.  The Tigers are playing for the State Championship! Let that sink in. The Tigers are playing for the State Championship!
  It’s been a long time coming, 56 years to be exact.
  I joined the many Tigers fans who went out on the Hite Stadium Field after the game.
  I saw Jerry Holmes, whose son Matt starts in the offensive line for the Tigers, and said, “It’s a lot better than 0-11 isn’t it?”
  Jerry was a member of Saluda’s only winless team in 1967.
  The win by the Tigers is for all those teams in the past who played their hearts out, but didn’t have success. I’ve covered a bunch of them, including that 0-11 as a student reporter and statistician.
  The win is for the 2016 and 2017 Tigers, who had a better team than Abbeville, but lost the Upperstate Championship to the Panthers.
  This win is for the thousands of  Saluda fans, who packed the stands in Simpsonvillle and Abbeville the last two Fridays.
  This win is for the community, a positive reminder that Saluda can produce winners.
  On our way home, Chief Deputy Toby Horne called me and said the team bus was going to get a police escort down Main Street, Bouknight Ferry Road, and then to the school.
  I parked near my office on West Church Street, and walked to Main Street and waited.
  Soon, I heard the sirens, and began videoing with my phone. I waved at the excited young men leaning out the windows of the bus.
  I walked the few feet to my van and started driving home.
  When I turned onto the Batesburg Highway, the magnitude of the night suddenly hit me and my eyes filled with tears. I have waited 56 years for this.
  I was 12-years-old the last time Saluda played for the state championship. The Tigers beat York 12-6 in overtime to win.
  I was 11 the previous year, when the Tigers beat Woodruff 53-26 to win their first championship since 1941.
  My first cousins Larry Thompson and Russell Shealy were  on the ‘62 and ‘63 team, and my Uncle Ed Shealy was on the ‘41 team. I also had distant cousins on all three teams.
  I have some cousins on this year’s team, three kids from my church I’ve watched grow up and my nephew Trey is in the staff.
  That’s how it is in a small community, we are family, either by blood or heart.
  Back in the state championship days, boys my age worshipped the ground the football players walked on. After every game, we’d run onto the field and ask the players for their helmet chin strap.
  On rare occasions, some lucky kid would get one and he’d hold it up like he had won the Heisman Trophy.
  It was after the 1963 season, when my cousin Larry gave me his chin strap. I’ve still got it.
  Larry was only 45 when he died of cancer in 1992. He was loved by everyone, and among his legacy was being a member of the 1962 and 1963 Saluda High state championship teams.
  Members of the 2019 Tigers, you have entered a realm only seven teams in Saluda High history, 1920s, 1940. 1941, 1955, 1956, 1962 and 1963, have entered. You are playing for the state championship!
  You are the teenagers little kids are worshipping now.
  Coach Stewart Young has joined the likes of Frank Herlong, Tommie Hite, Bettis Herlong and Mooney Player as the only Saluda High coaches to lead their team to the state title game.
  Yes, Friday’s Upperstate Championship win was a dream game, one no one from Saluda will ever forget.
  Congratulations, Tigers! Thanks for making me cry.....

SURPRISE...

 The only surprise to me in the Carolina-Clemson game was the score. I thought Clemson would win by more.
  To understand how inconsequential the game has become, I didn’t hear it mentioned much at church Sunday.
  In the good old days, you’d hear, “What happened to y’all?”
  Now, a Clemson win is expected by everybody, except maybe Dabo, who thinks every Clemson opponent is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Then he toasts them.
 This year’s Gamecock season is one best forgotten.
  As a Saluda and Carolina fans, I’ve seen the examples of character and leadership. Saluda is loaded with those traits, while Carolina has neither.
  Carolina upset the number three team in the country, and since that time has gone 1-5. The team scored one touchdown in the last three games.
 Saluda lost the last two games of the regular season, and dropped out of the 2A top ten poll.
  Since that time the Tigers have averaged 46 points a game in the play-offs and have beaten three region champion one seeds, Buford, Southside Christian and Abbeville.
  Will Muschamp answered questions about his awful offense after the Clemson game, and said nobody complained when the Gamecocks averaged 30 points a game last year.
  I’ll give you one reason why the Gamecocks scored 30 a game last year, Deebo Samuel.
  When Deebo decided to sit out the bowl game, how many points did the 30 a game Gamecocks score? Exactly none.
  Sunday, it was announced Muschamp had fired the strength and conditioning and quarterback coaches, and demoted offensive coordinators Bryan McClendon.
  Hopefully, he can hire an offensive coordinator who can convert a third down, and hire a strength and conditioning coach who can design a program that eliminates the ridiculous amount of injuries.
  As we Gamecocks always say, “Wait until next year.” Well, I’m not looking forward to it.

MRS. WILLIE

  I was deeply saddened at the passing of Willette “Willie” Miller over the weekend.
  She was a loyal member of Emory Church, and rarely missed a Sunday, until her health prohibited it.
 She still kept up with the church, and called Stephanie McCary earlier in the week to put poinsettias in the church in memory of family members.
  Mrs. Willie’s alto voice in the choir will be remembered by all who attended our church through the years, and those my age appreciate her devotion when she was our MYF counselor.
  Her birthday was March 29, and mine is March 24, and we both made sure we’d send each other birthday cards each. She’d never forget, even when she reached her 90s. .
  Saludans will long remember how she pleasantly waited on them at Smith 5&10 and People’s Drugs for many years.
  She will be greatly missed.