Thomas played in Fort Mill’s 1st lacrosse state title win; can he coach in another?
The more things change, the more they stay the same, just ask Fort Mill boys’ lacrosse coach Parker Thomas.
In 2011, Thomas led Fort Mill to their first ever state lacrosse championship. That time he was a senior at Fort Mill High. On Saturday, he will try to get the Jackets its most recent title as their head coach.
Fort Mill will take on Wando in the 5A boys state lacrosse finals at 6:30 p.m. at Irmo High, right after the Fort Mill girls lacrosse team plays Chapin at 4 p.m., also at Irmo.
The Jackets are looking for their first boys’ lacrosse title since 2014. Wando is going for its fifth consecutive state title. Wando has won six of the past seven titles, beating Fort Mill on three of those occasions. The Yellow Jackets beat the Warriors in the 2014 final.
Thomas says none of that past history between Wando and Fort Mill matters Saturday.
“I think the main focus is not beating ourselves and doing the things that we are coached to do,” he said. “That was the tale of two halves in the Dorman game. We were doing things out of character. If they (the team) keep their heads up and do the right things, it doesn’t matter who we are playing. I think we have proven that this year.”
A lot has changed for Fort Mill lacrosse since Thomas was in the program.
“The biggest difference is the game has grown so much,” he said. “We have had kids in our program, so now it is difficult to come out and make the team, if you aren’t a year-round lacrosse guy or put in the time to do this. We have kids that I am coaching now that I was helping in clinics when I was in high school.”
Thomas said he has known some of the players he is coaching now since they were little and played with some of their older brothers.
“Kids like Zach Terry, Conner Baucom, Jack McGuire, they have all been around this program for some time,” he said. “It is really cool seeing them get to this point. They have worked really hard to get there.”
One of the biggest differences for Thomas is that now he is on the outside of the lines looking in and isn’t able to affect the game with his physical abilities.
“That is something I have learned growing as a coach,” he said. “You have to handle yourself differently, because I can’t just run out there and make a play. I have to make sure all of the guys are on the same page in doing what they are suppose to be doing at such a macro level. The biggest difference between the seniors now on the field and when I was a senior is that these guys have had the expectations to get there (the finals). They have had a lot of weight on their shoulders. The seniors now were freshman on the team that lost in overtime (in 2016). They have been here and haven’t been able to get back so they have had a taste of how difficult it is.”
In recent years, Fort Mill played Wando in the regular season in home and away matches.
“We play so many good teams that are state champion caliber,” Thomas said. “That is why we schedule so tough. We look at it that we’ve got to be at this level or we will be going home.”
One thing that hasn’t changed for Thomas since his time playing for Fort Mill versus coaching is his beard. Even as an 18-year-old senior, Thomas, now 26, could grow thick facial hair. Now, his hair and beard are even thicker and longer, but he jokes he wasn’t going to be the one to cut it during the season.
“I have had a beard since I could grow one,” he said. “I have had one since I was 17. I have always had one. It is more of a comfortability thing. I am comfortable doing it. This year I got caught in a weird spot, I am not super superstitious, but I wasn’t going to be the one that went and trimmed it up and cause us to start losing.”
Thomas was one of the first Fort Mill players to go on to play college lacrosse, when he signed with Tennessee Wesleyan University. After he graduated, Thomas came right back to Fort Mill to start coaching and teaching.
One of Thomas’ assistants is the original boys’ lacrosse coach at Fort Mill, Jim Van Blarcom. Van Blarcom coached Thomas on the 2011 state championship team and said there is one difference in him between now and then – he is an adult.
“He is a leader,” Van Blarcom said. “He was a leader in high school.”
Being the elder statesman of Fort Mill lacrosse, Van Blarcom said he feels pride in Thomas and what he has done in the two short seasons he has been head coach.
“There is no question I feel proud,” he said.
Yellow Jacket girls chasing state title Saturday, too
The Fort Mill girls team will face Chapin at 4 p.m. in Saturday’s 5A state title game.
Fort Mill is playing in the final game of the season for the second straight year, after losing last year to J.L. Mann 7-5. This year they beat J.L. Mann 14-13 in overtime earlier this week in the Upper State championship game at Bob Jones Stadium, exacting some revenge from last year’s game.
Chapin is 15-0 on the season and ranked No. 1 in the state at 5A, while Fort Mill is ranked second in 5A at 15-3 overall.
Fort Mill senior Charlotte Anderson is currently tied for the school record for career goals with 199 goals and needs just one goal to break the record. She currently has 79 goals on the year for the Jackets.
Mac Banks: email@example.com, @MacBanksFM