High School Football Carries Me Away

W.L. Varner Stadium, Woodruff, South Carolina (Monte Dutton photos)

I would normally post this blog at montedutton.com, which, at the moment, is out of order, and I tried and failed to fix it yesterday, and I just don’t have time to fool with it anymore … now.

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, August 12, 2017, 12:00 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

Who knows what football season will bring? Clinton visits Laurens on August 25, when both of the county’s public schools will literally be off and running. It’s too early to tell much, but it’s likely both teams will run often and effectively.

On Thursday night, I watched Clinton defeat Blue Ridge, 20-7, in a half, then I half-watched Spartanburg thump Chapman, 31-7, because I was adding up the stats and trying to get ahead on the Red Devil story, and then Laurens arrived on the Varner Stadium field to edge the homestanding Woodruff Wolverines, 9-7. Last night at Wilder Stadium here in town, I was talking NASCAR on the South Carolina Network during part of Woodruff’s 14-12 win over Ben Lippen, and, finally, pleasing the local fans, oh, so much, the Red Devils prevailed over Strom Thurmond, 18-7.

Defying mathematics, Woodruff hosted three “halves,” and Clinton hosted the standard two.

I love old Wilder Stadium. I played in its first game in its present state. That was 1975. It needs renovation, but its aging structure has been the scene of more magic than a circus tent. Most circus tents are gone or in storage, but R.P. Wilder Stadium, named after one local legend and surrounding a field named after another (Keith Richardson) lives on.

In August and September, the sweltering rooms of its press box would make suitable sites for punitive solitary confinement, and trudging up its steps give its occupants a sweaty head start. Last night, the lights seemed so dim that I joked that they ought to cut them off and see if it got any darker. A full moon might actually make a difference. I kept thinking I was wearing sunglasses, and, first home game, I really need to remember to bring the binoculars.

An empty chair was sitting next to me in the press box, though it wasn’t the room I usually occupy. The empty chair reminded me of my line coach, Harold Williams, who died earlier this summer. It wasn’t uncommon for Coach Williams to sit next to me during games. He had so much to say that it sometimes made it difficult for me to keep up with my notes and statistics, but I never minded. He did me more good than I ever did him.

As testimony to the nostalgia attacks I get, while the Red Devils were warming up, it occurred to me that the sophomore quarterback, Konnor Richardson, looks like John Unitas. This isn’t an observation of skill or facial looks. Richardson wasn’t wearing high tops, and he mainly handed the ball off to Clinton’s potent rushers, but his mannerisms struck me. He ambles when he walks. He shuffles his shoulders. He throws the ball straight overhand. When I talked to him on the field afterwards, I realized that he is actually taller than Johnny U. was.

There’s something about that kid. On the basketball court, he reminds me of Dave Cowens, who never reminded me of Unitas.

Describing John Unitas to Konnor Richardson is the equivalent of my grandfather telling me about Otto Graham, but my grandfather never mentioned Graham, or Slingin’ Sammy Baugh, or Sid Luckman. My grandfather was never a sportswriter. I don’t think he ever went to a ballgame that didn’t include me or my brother playing.

Here are links to what I wrote at the GoLaurens/GoClinton website: on Thursday’s Arthur State Bank Wolverine Showcase in Woodruff, first Clinton and then Laurens, and on Friday’s Clinton Game Night.



(Steven Novak design)

If you’d like me to mail you a signed copy of Lightning in a Bottle, or any of my other novels, you can find my address and instructions at montedutton.com. (montedutton.com/blog/merchandise)

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

I’ve written six novels and a collection of short stories. I’ve also written a number of books about sports, mostly about NASCAR. You can find most of them here.

The Kindle versions of my books, where available, can be found above. Links below are to print editions.

(Cover design by Steven Novak)

Lightning in a Bottle is the story of Barrie Jarman, the hope of stock car racing’s future. Barrie, a 18-year-old from Spartanburg, South Carolina, is both typical of his generation and a throwback to the sport’s glory days.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Cowboys Come Home is a modern western. Two World War II heroes come home from the Pacific to Texas.

I’ve written a crime novel about the corrosive effects of patronage and the rise and fall of a powerful politician and his dysfunctional family, Forgive Us Our Trespasses.

I’ve written about what happens to a football coach when he loses everything, Crazy of Natural Causes. It’s a fable of life’s absurdity.

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon cover design)

I’ve written a tale of the Sixties in the South, centered on school integration and a high school football team, The Intangibles.

(Joe Font cover design)
(Joe Font cover design)

I’ve written a rollicking yarn about the feds trying to track down and manipulate a national hero who just happens to be a pot-smoking songwriter, The Audacity of Dope.

I’ve written a collection of 11 short stories, all derived from songs I wrote, Longer Songs.

Signed copies of Lightning in a Bottle are on sale at Emma Jane’s (see ad above). Signed copies of all my fiction are also on sale at L&L Office Supply in uptown Clinton, South Carolina.

(Cover photo by Crystal Lynn)
(Cover photo by Crystal Lynn)

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing), and/or @wastedpilgrim (more opinionated and irreverent). I’m on Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Instagram (TUG50), and Google-Plus (MonteDuttonWriter).




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