Clinton High School’s football team is trying to take another step back up the hill to prominence. The tradition-laden Red Devils made progress last year under head coach Corey Fountain.
A first-round playoff loss and a 4-7 record weren’t enough to wake up the echoes of eight state championships, but Fountain’s first year at the helm brought twice as many victories as the year before.
Clinton will resume its restricted workouts – the S.C. High School League calls it Phase 1 of resumption in the face of the COVID-19 spread – on Monday.
Fountain and his staff are happy with what little they have been able to see. Mainly it’s a program of getting in shape, stronger in the weight room and smarter in classroom study of X’s and O’s. Since coronavirus concerns put a stop to the proceedings, the coaches’ role has been electronic and from a distance.
“Our kids have done a great job working on their own,” Fountain said. “They understand what it’s going to take. They’re trying to do everything they can as safely as they can. More protocols are in place. Football isn’t made for social distancing, but we’ve been staying as safe as possible. It’ll be great to talk with the kids and see them out there on the field, even through the limits on what we can do.”
As of Wednesday, when the S.C. High School League approved a new plan, Clinton will begin workouts in earnest on Aug. 17.
After the first couple days of Phase 1 resumption, Fountain is going to revise the workouts, increasing the length of sessions on Wednesday.
The target date for the first game is Sept. 11, when the Red Devils are now scheduled to visit Union County in the first of five Region 3-3A games. After those games, Clinton will take on county rival Laurens at home in a game originally slated for Aug. 28. The seventh game has not yet been firmly established.
“As of now, we’ve got a more concrete plan,” Fountain said. “The High School League is doing the same thing. Nothing’s going to be set in stone. We don’t know how it’s all going to turn out.”
The players can’t play catch. They can’t even use footballs. They can’t even line up. They can’t even work out all at one time. Groups of nine work in sessions with individual coaches, moving from one station to another.
“Any time you’re not able to do your run-mesh and handle the ball, it will put you behind,” Fountain said. “Right now we’re focusing on getting them in shape, lots of mental things still, chalk talk on the board, concepts at doing it hands-on. The sooner we can get to another phase, the better, but every school is rowing the same boat.
“There’s no need to feel sorry for yourself. It’s our job to do the best we can with the conditions as they are and to convince our kids to do the same thing.”