David Reese served as an assistant football coach under Jim Werden for so long that he can practically recite Werden’s won-loss record and the list of his achievements.
Head Football Coach (204-124 record)Middleton High School, 1973-99West Ashley High School, 2000-02Career HighlightsDiv. II-AAAA state championship, 1982State coach of the year, 1982Coached in North-South Game, 1982Coached Shrine Bowl, 1997
But what Reese remembers most about his friend and former boss was how close Werden was to his players.
“Sure, he knew about X’s and O’s, and how to win,” Reese said of the 64-year-old Werden, who died Thursday night of an apparent heart attack. “But the thing about Jim was his relationship with his players. His players were crazy about him. They respected him and gave it their all.”
Werden was head coach for 26 years at Middleton High School, which merged with St. Andrews High in 2000 to form West Ashley High School, where Werden served as head coach for three seasons. He finished with a 204-124 career record, including 196-96 at Middleton.
Werden led the Middleton Razorbacks to the playoffs 20 times, winning the Division II-AAAA state championship in 1982. Reese was by his side at Middleton for nearly 20 years.
“Jim was a heckuva coach and a good guy,” said Reese, who is now an assistant coach at Porter-Gaud. “His legacy will include the state championship. I believe that was the last time a team from Charleston County won a state championship in football. It was a lot of work, but it was a lot of fun. It was the most fun I had as a coach.”
Shaun Horn was the quarterback for the 1981 team. His older brother Allen also played for Werden, as did younger brother Derek.
“It’s a huge loss, a really huge loss,” Horn said. “I know the impact he had on me and my brothers. I can’t imagine how many people’s lives he affected. There must have been hundreds — thousands.”
Werden was born on Feb. 8, 1949, in Dover, Del. He was an outstanding football player in high school and considered attending the U.S. Naval Academy.
“He later told me he didn’t think he could fit into a submarine,” Reese said with a laugh. “That changed the course of his history. He enrolled at Tennessee Tech.”
Werden played football in college, met his future wife, Linda, and decided on coaching as a profession.
Werden was the state coach of the year in 1982 and coached in the North-South All-Star Football Game. He led South Carolina to a 21-20 win over North Carolina in the 1997 Shrine Bowl, and in 1999 he was selected as coach for an all-star group of players from South Carolina who competed in the Down Under Bowl on Australia’s Gold Coast.
Middleton fielded a team for the last time in 1999, and Werden guided the Razorbacks to a 10-2 record and the second round of the playoffs. That season marked the end of a long and fierce rivalry between Middleton and St. Andrews.
Dave Spurlock, who now oversees athletics for the Charleston County School District, was on the sideline when the Razorbacks and Rocks clashed for the final time.
“We were good friends, but we kept the rivalry going. We kept up the intensity,” said Spurlock, who was head coach at St. Andrews. “It ended as one of the great rivalries in state history and part of the reason was Jim.
“He was a great coach and I know he will be missed.”
Follow Philip M. Bowman on Twitter: @PandCPhil.