Zucker Middle School has been in existence for only a few years, but already the Lightning has become a football powerhouse.
Heading into the playoffs this week, Zucker had a 22-game winning streak and has a shot at a third straight league title in Saturday’s 11:30 a.m. championship game at North Charleston High School.
Zucker competes in a league against Morningside, Military Magnet and Northwoods. Edwina Peterson, middle school coordinator for the North Charleston Recreation Department, said the league has about 140 players this season with the young players feeding to a number of area high schools, including some who have gone to Wando in Mount Pleasant.
“Our coaches are teachers or staff members that work at the schools,” Peterson said. “They are very conscientious. The schools have tutoring after school whether they need it or not.”
Peterson said the season begins in October and wraps up just before the Thanksgiving holidays. Games are played on Wednesdays at North Charleston or the old Stall High School.
Zucker was 0-7 the year before James Graham and James Davis took over and began a winning tradition.
“I wish I could take credit for the first year,” said Graham, who teaches engineering. “The first year, if we didn’t win, we should have been fired. We just had a bunch of good kids.”
Graham said his players aren’t that big, but he points out to his players that it’s not the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the fight in the dog.
“I think our kids out-heart our opponents,” he said. “They want to beat you more than you want to beat us.”
Davis, who works with student concerns at the school, said instruction is a big part of the Lightning’s success on the field and in the classroom.
“We try to preach discipline and technique,” Davis said. “We try to preach to them about being students first and athletes second. We have a study hall in the morning, and we have them on game day. We started the study hall three years ago.”
Davis also said the coaching staff works hard on teaching the players the proper techniques and mechanics that will carry over to high school football.