There’s always been a crunch in football numbers at Lincoln High School, and for good reason. The McClellanville school is the second smallest high school in the state when it comes to enrollment, and the football rosters in past years hardly sufficed for eight-man football, let alone 11-man.
There have been times when the roster included about a dozen or so names and that has been the main reason for a losing streak that is one of the longest in state history. But this season, there has been a resurgence since the return of coach James Waring. The affable coach is in his second stint at the school, and he has 28 players on his team. The number could swell to more than 30 in the next week or two when everyone is back in the routine of school.
“I really can’t put a hand on it,” Waring said when asked about the impressive turnout. “I guess, No. 1, that we have a lot of kids coming back who were either injured or are sophomores. We have a lot of sophomores who probably didn’t feel comfortable playing varsity football last year as freshmen.”
Having quality assistants certainly helped spark interest. The defensive coordinator is Thelien Smith, a former assistant at Marshall, Clemson, LSU and Charleston Southern. Former Citadel assistant Gerald McCully is the offensive coordinator.
Lincoln has an enrollment of 90 students, including 43 boys, and that puts the 28-man roster — and interest — in perspective.
Waring, who left St. John’s to take the Lincoln job, also has had a big role in turning up the interest thermometer.
He began his career at Lincoln in 1991 and took a struggling program and led it to the region championship the following year. He spent six years at Lincoln before taking the Stall job.
“I coached a lot of players who are uncles and cousins of the current players,” Waring said. “My former players have helped create interest. Lincoln football is about the community, and the community wants to win. They want the young people to succeed.”
The team has not won a game since Oct. 3, 2008, when it beat Branchville. The Yellow Jackets’ losing streak is 46 games heading into Friday’s home game against Garrett Tech. The longest losing streak in state history is 48 and belongs to Waccamaw. According to Maxpreps, the Yellow Jackets were outscored by an average of 50-7 a game.
The team dropped a heartbreaker to Academic Magnet in the season opener last weekend. Magnet had a three-touchdown lead, but had to hold on for a 43-42 victory.
“Our goal is to get better every day,” Waring said. “I don’t want to put a number on wins, because I don’t want our kids to get discouraged. Obviously, our defense has to get better. You can’t win when your defense gives up 43 points. We want to be ready for region play.”
Quarterback Eric Manigault, who was 9-for-11 passing for 291 yards and five TDs against Magnet, has bought into the system.
“I think we can go all the way,” the quarterback said. “It’s just going to take leadership, commitment and us sticking together.”
Junior running back Daquan Doiley says his team will have a breakout season.
“We want to change the perception of sports at Lincoln High School,” he said.