Chuck Reedy kept things simple during his first scrimmage as the coach of Goose Creek’s football team back in 2002. The Gators ran one play that day against Timberland, the inside veer to the left, and to the right.
Afterward, Reedy sat in his office and asked his fellow coaches what they thought about the scrimmage.
“One of them finally bit and said, ‘coach, we need a few more plays, I think,’” recalls former Goose Creek principal John Fulmer. Reedy replied, “Well, when y’all bring me a football team that can run 24 or 25 plays, we might add another play.”
Reedy, who had just been hired at Goose Creek, about 15 miles north of Charleston, after a lengthy college coaching career, including stints at Clemson and South Carolina, had around 30 players at his disposal in that initial outing against Timberland. When Goose Creek beat Wade Hampton 76-0 Friday in the first round of the Class AAAA Division II playoffs, over 100 Gators dressed in game uniforms. And Reedy’s club ran more than one play too.
“He built the program from that base,” said Fulmer, who retired in 2007 after 29 years as the school’s principal.
Goose Creek (12-0) hosts South Pointe (10-2) Friday in the second round of the state playoffs. Both schools have enjoyed more than a little success on the gridiron the past seven years, the Stallions winning a pair of state titles and the Gators adding one themselves. South Pointe opened its doors in 2006 and has won 86 of its 109 all-time games, including 19 of 23 playoff contests. Goose Creek opened in 1967, and there were years and years of barren Gator football seasons between then and now.
“Every now and then we’d have a good year. We were never very consistent winning,” said Jimmy Huskey, who replaced Fulmer as Goose Creek principal. “In the few years before he (Reedy) came, we really went through some rough times, and really thought we had the worst program in the state. I know we did recordwise.”
Stallion players and fans might think football success is as easy as swinging open the doors of a new school. Goose Creek people would assure them it’s not. Between 1967 and 2003, Reedy’s second season, Goose Creek managed two playoff victories – a 1979 win over Hartsville and a 1994 triumph over Union County – in 13 appearances. The Gators made the postseason just 11 times and only had nine winning seasons during that 36-year stretch.
Reedy was hired in 2002 after a three-year hiatus from coaching following his ouster as an assistant at South Carolina, and took over a Gator team that didn’t win a game the previous season.
“It was as bad as bad can be,” he said.
Longtime Stratford coach Ray Stackley had seen the crosstown rival – just 6 miles away – struggle for many years. When Reedy arrived “that program was pretty much in disarray.”
Expectations were low, and crowd volume levels on Friday nights even lower. But Reedy, and Fulmer, took a long view of the process.
“He asked me, ‘John what do you want? You want to win this year or do you want to build a program?’” Fulmer recalled. “I said ‘I want to build a program,’ and he said ‘that’s what I want to do.’”
Reedy was the head coach at Baylor University from 1993 to 1996, and he ran the option offense he’d learned as an assistant to Clemson coach Danny Ford from 1978 to ’89. He found success with that same offense at Goose Creek where athletes were abundant, and who finally started to turn out for football consistently in the mid-2000s. Fulmer remembers Reedy saying that if his kids learned something everyday at practice, they would continue to show up, a line of thought counter to previous Goose Creek coaches who thought kids just wanted to win.
“He came in with a philosophy and a belief and he stuck to his guns,” said Stackley. “They got in the weight room, the kids started getting stronger, they got an offseason program, he brought in good coaches, and he stayed the course.”
Under Reedy, Goose Creek has only lost three region games since 2006 and has played in the playoffs every season but ’02 and ’05. The Gators are 10-8 in Reedy-coached postseason games, including two wins last season that were vacated after the school was removed from the playoffs over an administrative eligibility error. The Gators lost in the 2010 state championship, but were redeemed in 2011 by a 37-21 state title victory over Greenwood, the school’s first in football.
Reedy’s team was undefeated last year too, but technically finished 0-13 due to the ineligibility fiasco, which eventually spilled from the South Carolina High School League’s executive office into the courts. Still, most followers of South Carolina high school football would tell you there’s hardly been a more dominant Class AAAA program the last three years than the Gators. Counting the vacated losses as wins they originally were, Reedy’s team hasn’t been beaten on a football field in 38 games.
“They’re known all over the state now,” said South Pointe coach Strait Herron. “I hate it that last year they didn’t get to compete for it because they may have had the best team in the state then. Playing them, having the opportunity to win a big game like that, would be big for any program.”
When the Stallions travel to Goose Creek Friday, the Gators will host a school that’s known immediate success in its eight-year history. South Pointe’s athletic program was forged from two highly successful programs with the expectation of succeeding, especially in big-game environments. It was much harder for Goose Creek and Reedy to organically foster a winning tradition where previously there had been none.
“Rock Hill and Northwestern were two of the top-five programs in the state in the 20-year period preceding South Pointe. So whoever they got, whether it be from Northwestern or Rock Hill, they were used to winning,” said Reedy. “We had nothing. There was no tradition of winning. There was no pride in our team, our school, or our community.”
Success has changed that. Reedy said the home side of the school’s stadium has been added onto twice, and Goose Creek fills up the joint every Friday night. Reedy and his program did that.
“I think it’s one of the best things that’s ever happened to Goose Creek High School,” said Fulmer, for whom the school’s field is named, “because it gave them a sense of pride and a sense of community, and the community involvement spills over into the school. (Hiring Reedy) might be the best thing I ever did at Goose Creek as the principal.”
These days, Goose Creek utilizes 11 or 12 running plays and a handful of passing plays, a far shout from the scrimmage at Timberland 12 years ago.
“One of the things I always remember about coach (Danny) Ford was he said ‘give me one play that all 11 guys know what to do and have confidence in executing. And once we’ve got one, then let’s get two,’” said Reedy. “That’s kind of the approach we took. Let’s try to get good at one thing and then we’ll move to another thing.”
Bret McCormick • 803-329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T