CHESTER -- Most incoming football coaches would not feel comfortable being compared to the ones they replaced.
Chester High School's Maurice Flowers takes it as a compliment. He's good friends with Victor Floyd, who left after taking the Cyclones to the Class AAA state championship to coach the football team at Brunswick (Ga.) High School.
Floyd promised his returning players he'd help Chester find a coach cut out of the same mold, one that would keep the momentum and winning attitude he built at Chester.
Flowers was the man. He runs a similar offense, a wide-open spread attack, a 3-4 defense instead of the 3-3 -- which the Cyclones will also employ -- holds study halls before practice, is close to his players and has the same philosophy regarding discipline.
"It's almost like coach Floyd didn't leave," said Thomas Meadows, a senior cornerback. "No pants hanging below your butt, no earrings, no ball caps in the building and mandatory study halls.
"We are comfortable with coach Flowers. A lot of people think we won't be good because we have a new coach, but we are going to Clemson this year to play in another state championship."
Flowers was looking for a job when Floyd announced he was leaving. Floyd called Flowers and said he had a good job for him if he was interested. The call caught Flowers by surprise because Floyd had rejected several big-time job offers and had a wealth of talent coming back.
There were question marks about Flowers, who was hired on May 12. This past season, his first at West Charlotte, Flowers led his team to a 13-2 record and the North Carolina state Class AAAA semifinals.
But the team had to forfeit its wins, had to return $16,000 in ticket sales and was fined $250 for playing an ineligible player who had obtained a false address. Flowers was suspended from coaching in North Carolina for a year and was mulling over offers from teams in Texas and Georgia.
Two interviews and a thorough investigation by Chester athletics director Rick Campbell led to a recommendation to the school board and Flowers was hired.
Wednesday, he cleared up two rumors that have been floating around -- that he's only in Chester until the suspension is lifted and that players were fleeing his program.
"I'm not going anywhere," he said. "I've been wanting to coach in South Carolina for a long time. From my coaching experience in Texas, I found out what it's like to coach in a big arena. It's much the same in South Carolina. The players are dedicated and the communities support their teams.
"Schools here have more assistant coaches than in North Carolina, which doesn't have spring practice like here. South Carolina pays better. I'm not about money but if I returned to North Carolina is would be going backwards. I hope I have a long career here at Chester."
As far as players leaving the team, Flowers said since he got here he hasn't lost a single player, that instead, new kids are becoming more interested in football because of the success the Cyclones have enjoyed.
Flowers has been at school every day since he was hired but one. He's been opening the weight room so his players can work out. He's still working on turning his office into a space that yells "Coach Flowers," much the same as when Floyd was there. So far he's added two items to his desk -- a football in a plastic case and a foot-high wooden statue.
"The football is a Father's Day gift from our two daughters, who are 12 and 9," Flowers said, pointing at the plastic case. "It's got pink hearts on it, photos of my daughters and they wrote 'Number 1 Dad' on it. The statue is from Africa, and as you can see, it's of a man thinking. So I call it my thinking man statue.''
Flowers was not at school Tuesday, which was the day he missed. He stayed home and celebrated his 39th birthday with his family. Like Floyd, Flowers is big on family and wants his football players to I know they are one big family working toward the same goal.
He grew up in Charlotte and was a standout quarterback at East Mecklenburg High School. Flowers went to Johnson C. Smith on a football scholarship and was a three-time College Football Preview Magazine All-American. He also played basketball his first two years at J.C. Smith.
Flowers is an offensive coach, like for his teams to put up a lot of points. He's handing the defense to Anthony Sterling, who he brought with him to be his coordinator on that side of the ball.
So far, Flowers likes what he's seen in Chester. He pointed out that he's never coached a team that had a better work ethic, that he went to the middle school and met with his future players and that he's coaching kids who take grades seriously.
"This is a one-team town, so it was great to meet with the middle school kids because I know they will move into our program," Flowers said. "In Charlotte, you never knew where a player would end up once he got out of middle school.
"It's been a very smooth transition for the players and for me. I'm fortunate to come into a program that isn't rebuilding and has a legitimate chance of playing for a state championship. I told the players that all coaches have different styles, so I've been impressed with the way they've taken everything new with an open mind."
And there's the drive factor. Flowers lives just over the state line off I-77. It takes him 35 minutes to get to work. He laughed while talking about it because he worked former NFL player Natrone Means' football camp last week on the other side of Charlotte and said it took him 50 minutes to get across town each day.
There's also the players, a group of quick, athletic and big ones that know how to play the game. The team includes safety Troy Sanders, who has an offer from Wisconsin and visited the school in June.
"Coach Flowers is a real good coach," Sanders said. "He has the same values coach Floyd had, and that's important to us. He's a firm believer in discipline, but he doesn't have to worry about that.
"We learned discipline under coach Floyd and we'll be the same under him. Coach Floyd said he make sure they brought in somebody good and he kept his promise."