SAPAKOFF COLUMN: Great scene for 600th victory
SUMMERVILLE — With eight seconds remaining and a 37-21 victory over host Ashley Ridge secure, Summerville head football coach John McKissick called timeout and took the field to speak to his defense.
“I don’t want anybody to retaliate if anything happens out there,” the 86-year-old gentleman said Friday night before celebrating his 600th Green Wave win. “You want to play next week, don’t you?”
“Yes, sir!” the players shouted in unison.
Sixty-one football seasons into mid-career, you’d think they would have named the town McKissickville.
Maybe that’s the gold watch for No. 700.
“We made history, and I love it,” Summerville junior running back Davon Anderson said. “Oh, man. It’s overwhelming.”
For young and old alike.
“It was a great scene,” McKissick said. “I was so happy for the community and for the coaches, but mostly for the players.”
Jerry Nettles enjoyed himself watching from the visitors’ stands. Nettles, Summerville Class of ’57, helped McKissick’s Green Wave win state championships in 1955 and 1956.
“It’s like Winston Churchill and his quote at the peak of World War II,” said Nettles, a former Citadel quarterback, who considers McKissick his best friend. “Churchill said, ‘Never, never, never quit.’ He said ‘never’ nine times. Actually, it was 13. So, John is going to keep going, don’t you think?”
To reset historical context, some industrious folks crossed the Atlantic and set up shop at present-day Charles Towne Landing, football was invented and McKissick got himself a gig at Summerville High School.
That first season was 1952. Elvis came, went, and died. McKissick-coached players fought in the war. The Korean War.
The San Francisco Giants were the New York Giants in ‘52, with an outfielder named Willie Mays.
Through it all, McKissick’s program has been about the Summerville “family” and his own.
Sons follow fathers into green and gold.
Three of McKissick’s grandsons played for him over the years.
“I thought he might stop at 500, and now here he is at 600,” said Donny McElveen, one of his grandsons, a Clemson quarterback who was at Ashley Ridge for the big game. “There’s no telling when it might stop.”
Not soon, apparently.
“I mean, it’s his life,” McElveen said. “It’s just so hard to give up. He’s been doing it that long, it’s really hard to see him stopping.”
The Green Wave family affair extended across a field decorated with a huge pink ribbon. Ashley Ridge head coach Kenny Walker and many of his assistants played for McKissick.
The Swamp Foxes were proud and classy in the secondary role. You never know where meandering schedule math winds up and if it couldn’t be McKissick Field, this was a nice next best spot.
“We were pretty amped,” Summerville freshman quarterback Sawyer Bridges said. “We heard (Ashley Ridge) made up some pretty nasty T-shirts this week. That got us amped up.”
Summerville is an underdog next week against Bluffton and in the playoffs, but has 18 starters due back next season.
The countdown to No. 700 begins.
“I don’t think he’s ever going to quit,” Bridges said, “and I don’t want him to.”
Reach Gene Sapakoff at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @sapakoff.