Fifty miles north of Clemson, where college football reigns supreme and all eyes are on the Tigers' hunt for a playoff berth, Jeff Farrington’s North Greenville team is quietly writing the story of their own postseason.
The 9-4 Division II Crusaders don’t garner the prestige or the national attention neighboring Clemson does, but come Saturday, North Greenville is set to match up with North Alabama in the third round of the NCAA playoffs with a trip to the semifinals on the line.
Much of the Crusaders’ success stems from Farrington and the way he approaches running his program. And much of his background comes from his previous ties to the Lowcountry — The Citadel.
“I walked on and played for Art Baker there at The Citadel and that was in 1978, and I graduated in the spring of ’82,” Farrington said.
“There are a lot of things you take from (The Citadel), but I guess a standard of discipline and the way you go about things (are what I took). There are all kinds of ways to do things, I certainly believe that. And there’s not one way, you just have a system and you keep working on it and go about it.”
The former defensive back jokes he rode the bench more than he saw the field during his days at Johnson Hagood Stadium, but he lettered twice. When his playing days came to a close, Farrington figured he would become a high school coach, but the staff at The Citadel convinced him to give college coaching a try instead. He was offered a position as a graduate assistant the following spring.
That set in motion his college coaching career and eventually led him to North Greenville, where several of his current players also have connections to the Lowcountry.
Jeremy Hunt (Porter-Gaud), Pedro Manigault (Goose Creek), Johnny Burch (St. John’s), Anthony Blair (Georgetown), Dominique Richardson (Stall) and Dillon Alford (Georgetown) all played high school football in the Charleston area, which Burch said gave them all an advantage when they moved to the Upstate.
“It taught me how to work hard and how to discipline myself for anything that may be beneficial to my future,” he said.
“The country-like environment … every day, I’m confidently on the field and working out and making sure I’m giving it my all.”
When the No. 6 Crusaders travel to No. 1 North Alabama for Saturday’s game, Hunt —the linebacker out of Porter-Gaud — said the X-factor will lie in keeping Lions quarterback Jacob Tucker in the pocket.
Tucker is North Alabama’s top runner with 14 rushing touchdowns and nearly 72 yards per game on the ground. No other North Alabama player has more than seven rushing touchdowns, and in the Lions’ 52-21 win over North Greenville earlier in the season, Tucker ran for 132 yards on 14 carries for two touchdowns.
Should North Greenville shut Tuckerdown and beat North Alabama, the Crusaders will then be reseeded before the semifinals begin.
Hunt is confident Farrington’s time at The Citadel has prepared the Crusaders well for the playoff stretch.
“The Citadel’s really strict and stuff like that. I feel like at times he can show that rough side but at other times he’s a little softer,” Hunt said.
“He can have that edge sometimes but then other times he’ll just sit down and talk to you … we’re really focused on getting our team as far as we can.”