He was on the sideline for six state championship games as an assistant coach at Colleton Prep. But today, Neil Minton will be in the spotlight as head coach when the War Hawks battle Holly Hill Academy in the SCISA Class A state championship game.
"It's more pressure, no doubt," said Minton, in his second year as head coach.
"I was fortunate to be behind some great coaches. We made it to six state championship games, and I was fortunate to be part of that."
The game is slated for 3:30 p.m. at Charlie W. Johnson Stadium on the campus of Benedict College in Columbia. The War Hawks claimed back-to-back titles in 2002 and '03, but lost the last time they played in the big game. They fell to Charleston Collegiate, 28-27, in 2007.
Colleton Prep enters with a 9-2 record. Holly Hill Academy is 9-3.
The two teams met four weeks ago and Holly Hill Academy jumped to a 17-10 halftime lead. But Colleton Prep rolled for 200 yards on the ground and scored 20 unanswered points in the second half to grab a 30-17 victory.
"Their defensive line got the best of us in the first half," Minton said. "But in the second half, we made some plays, got excited and controlled the clock," Minton said. "That kept their offense off the field."
Holly Hill Academy has allowed just one touchdown in two playoff games. The Raiders rebounded from a three-game losing streak under coach Don Shelley, who led his team to the 8-man title in '07.
Jonathan McWaters is in his second season as the Raiders' starting quarterback. He has some impressive weapons, including Travis Spence, who has rushed for 1,451 yards this season, and Jay Shuler, who has 600 yards.
Colleton Prep's goal is to establish a running game. The War Hawks have five players who have rushed for at least 300 yards. Tanner Cope leads the way with 1,058 yards and 17 TDs. His brother Scott has 629 yards and five scores.
The defense has been opportunistic with 22 interceptions. Reed Houck leads the way with six picks. He also plays quarterback and has passed for 655 yards and three scores.