If Victor Floyd never has to trudge to the outskirts of the school’s campus in search of a clay pile this fall, the 2016 season will have been a success at Chester High.
Once he finds an ample pile, Floyd harvests a couple shovels-full of the red dirt and dumps it in a gallon bucket. Pour in vinegar and place a badly sprained ankle deep into the poultice.
The homemade remedy comes from Floyd’s grandmother and his youth in Nichols, S.C., a sandy-floored town of about 400 people east of Dillon and south of the North Carolina state line. She used the red clay and vinegar mix to draw swelling out of a sprained ankle during Floyd’s high school playing days at Green Sea-Floyds.
That’s old, from old people around the way growing up.
Chester coach Victor Floyd, on the origins of his red clay and vinegar sprained ankle treatment
Chester’s coach only had to use the red clay and vinegar mash once last season, with since-graduated linebacker Albert Thompson. In an effort to improve Thompson’s severely sprained ankle ahead of the Clinton game in late October, his right foot was submerged in the bucket for about 20 minutes, then iced for about 5 minutes before going back into the red clay and vinegar.
Chester employs a full-time athletic trainer; consider Floyd’s folksy contribution as ancillary to the cause. Senior lineman Xi Simpson has been fortunate to avoid the red clay and vinegar treatment so far.
“I don’t know what that was,” he said, laughing. “I had never seen that before.”
Every high school football team wants, needs, to avoid injuries. That’s especially true for Chester, which is still rebuilding its program under Floyd. The Cyclones went 3-7 last season, missing out on the postseason after consecutive losses in the last two weeks.
Less committed players quit or were run off before the season even started.
“We didn’t need them guys,” Simpson said about the former players that fell by the wayside in 2015. “We’re good with what we’ve got.”
The players we do have, we’re dogs. We’re dogs. We’re a hard-nosed team.
Chester senior Xi Simpson
But there are 20 new faces in the program this season. Most of those are ninth graders, an encouraging sign for the future. The inexperience is nothing new; by region play last season, Chester had 10 freshmen and sophomores in the starting lineup.
“We were extremely young,” said Floyd.
Consistent weight lifting is helping the young guys bulk up, and the veteran players stay healthy. Linemen wear knee braces and players drink 8-ounce cups of pickle juice in the three days leading up to a Friday night game to stave off cramping. Floyd plans on using three players in the offensive backfield to lighten their loads and keep key contributors Pha’Leak Brown, Jalyn Reid and Corey Wright healthy.
The goal is to get 700 (yards) out of all of them.
A three-back rotation should help Chester get the most out Pha’Leak Brown, Jalyn Reid and Corey Wright’s talents, as well as keeping them healthy, according to coach Victor Floyd.
It can be just as important for the players to not dwell on the lack of depth.
“We try to play fast and don’t take no plays off,” said Simpson, who picked up a scholarship offer from Presbyterian over the summer. “You can avoid injuries like that; we just go all out, play full-speed.”
Chester has a less imposing schedule that should help the team stay healthy. Rock Hill and York and former region foes Lancaster and South Pointe are off the slate, replaced by 2A Keenan and non-traditional outfits, Carolina Pride and Franklin Christian. The problem wasn’t as much with Rock Hill, York and the like’s talent, as much as it was the size of those schools and their rosters.
“With this five classifications, you evened stuff out,” said Floyd, who thinks his team would have been much better this year even if it had stayed in the previous region.
“If the kids get to November healthy where you can make a run, that’s what it boils down to. We’ll be a thorn in the side.”