High School Sports

Changing the conversation about Clover football

When Clover coach Chad Smith was at Easley, he had an assistant coach who loved adding up all of the Green Wave’s possible outcomes in the South Carolina High School League football points system that determines playoff seeding. But Smith’s teams at Easley never had to worry about the myriad of possible permutations the assistant coach whipped up.

“People can make some fuss about playoff points all they want to,” said Smith. “I’ve never been a huge believer in that. If you do what you’re supposed to do when conference rolls around, you’ll be in the playoffs.”

Easley finished in the top three of Region 1-4A each year Smith was in charge, so the point-counting was useless. Smith isn’t counting High School League points this year either, even after the Blue Eagles’ 21-14 win over Rock Hill last week that boosted their postseason probability and severely harmed the Bearcats’ shot at an automatic spot. He’s not thinking about playoffs much at all.

“I concentrate on the daily things, getting better every day,” said Smith. “I think that win Friday night was just confirmation that when you put your nose to the grindstone and you run a program the right way, and you get better every day, you might not get quick results, but you will get results that will last for a while. That’s what we’re trying to build here.”

It’s time to change the conversation about Clover football.

The Blue Eagles’ own muted celebration after beating Rock Hill suggests as much. Smith said the offensive unit’s bus ride back to Clover last Friday was business-like. His team looked like it was supposed to win a game in which few gave them a chance. No need to mention Clover’s struggles in recent years; it’s a new day.

“I think they’re expecting to win,” Smith said about his players. “They fought hard until the end. We’ve still got to learn how to finish but I think our kids, they’ve bought into the program and they’re doing the right things.”

Clover (2-5, 1-1 Region 3-4A) is well-positioned to scrap for one of Region 3-4A’s four automatic playoff spots. The Blue Eagles still face Northwestern (this Friday) and York (regular season finale), but also Nation Ford and Gaffney. Five wild-card spots go to the next best nonautomatic qualifying teams based on the South Carolina High School League’s points standings. If the Blue Eagles continue to play like they have in recent weeks, the points shouldn’t matter.

“I think we have to win two of the next four and that would get us in,” said Smith.

“It’s just nice to control your own destiny, and that’s something people in Clover have not been used to since 2010. Any time you beat a Rock Hill team in Rock Hill, it gives your program a sense of validity and I think that’s what Friday night did for us. I don’t want to make it bigger than what it is; but at the same time, I think it does give our program a little bit more confidence.”