Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, May 10, 2018, 10:40 a.m.
Spring sports are winding down. Here in town, and throughout this end of Laurens County, all we have left are some girls competing in the state track meet and boys playing for the state tennis championship.
Even football, for which the town is known, rises and falls, and, at the moment, is still trying to rise again. Tennis is always good. While the Red Devils have not won a state championship since 2000, they are in the playoffs every year and won the Upper State championship for the second straight year on Wednesday.
Hanahan, state champion the past two years, fell in the Lower State finals to Bishop England, another Charleston school, so Clinton will play the Bishops on Saturday in Cayce, which adjoins Columbia and apparentlyhas a nice tennis center.
I have enjoyed soccer and tennis in particular this spring. Clinton is heretofore not noted for soccer, but the team finished second in the region and lost a heartbreaker, 1-0, in the playoffs. The previous leading scorer missed the whole season due to a knee injury, and he will be back next year, and I expect the Red Devils will be better.
The tennis courts have been a comfortable place to monitor the action, probably doubly relaxing due to the usual lack of drama. I saw Clinton lose a team match – a 4-3 heartbreaker to Riverside – but in every other match I witnessed, including the Upper State final, the Red Devils won every single individual contest.
The No. 1 player, Isaac MacMillan, is an unflappable senior. The No. 2 player, Ike Waldron, is a freshman whose father graduated from Clinton High with me. Chuck Waldron is a tireless force for tennis, to which he has dedicated his life. He coaches youth tennis and has something to do with why the high school team stays strong.
After the match, I asked the longtime and charming coach, Clovis Simmons, to describe the 6-0 victory over Camden in one word.
I knew it was coming.
“But don’t put that.”
“Oh, no,” I said. “Awesome is not something you would ever say.”
The success brought with it the Voice of the Red Devils, Buddy Bridges, to begin the matches with stirring introductions of the competitors. Everyone else on the team represented Clinton High School except the No. 3 singles player, Tyler Trevino, who is specifically from Joanna because Buddy is from Joanna and knows it is a place like no other.
This happens to be true. Among its spirited populace lies a disproportionate role in the success of sports teams at Clinton High School. The cotton mill lies in ruins, but the spirit lives on.
The football team is finishing spring practice next week, and the spring game is next Friday night at 6. Last year I got bowled over taking pictures on the sideline, which might make me sit in the lower rows of the Wilder Stadium grandstands so that I can take notes at the same time because what stats I get will be the ones I keep myself.
That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which are available for sale here.
The new novel, my eighth, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.