Thursday, October 10, 2013
Paul Knox Middle School football fans may notice things are a bit different when their Patriots enter the Jackets Nest.
Head coach Sheldon Higgenbottom had one central goal when he took over the job: To make the program something that kids became excited about. He wanted the football team to be something that was a privilege and an honor, not just something to do. The team has also grown to include 40 players this year.
To meet those ends, the team started a new tradition earlier this season. The team does some warm ups and gets in their gear at Paul Knox. Then, arm-in-arm, the team walks from the middle school to North Augusta High School. Along the way, the players chant and keep a cadence.
“One day we were all sitting in the office and Coach (Brent) Dorn goes, ‘You know what we should do? How about if we stop taking a bus and just walk down there,’” Higgenbottom said. “We all kind of started thinking on that idea from there. Someone said, ‘How about if we take the walk together?’ and someone else said, ‘How about if we make them join arms?’ So it’s all of us together coming up with something.”
The walk is only 0.38 miles, but the message behind it is what makes an impact on the players, Higgenbottom said. It shows unity as a team, and in addition to that, coaches also join them.
Before the Sept. 25 game against Schofield, the team also had a police escort. It was only the second time the team had done the walk – the first coming a week prior against Silver Bluff.
“We’re hoping that by the last game, we can have the parents, the students and the band lined up so that when the kids come through there, they can get high-fives and pats on the back,” Higgenbottom said.
That last game will be Oct. 16 against North Augusta Middle.
Higgenbottom also pointed out that planning for this season went as far back as February.
“Coach Walker, Coach Jackson and myself started talking about what we wanted to do and setting ground rules,” he said. “We were fortunate enough to get Coach Dorn in there, and he’s the sergeant-in-arms and he’s our enforcer. We’ve made rules that we’ve made them follow, but at the same time we’ve rewarded them. We want this to be something that’s important. To be on the team, you have to do certain things, and you have to follow rules. There’s a lot of boys in this school who aren’t willing to make the commitment that these kids have.”
Under Higgenbottom’s guidance, the Patriots have roared out of the gates with a 3-1 record, most recently a 38-0 win at LBC. The only blemish on the season, thus far, was the opener against North Augusta. The Jackets beat the Patriots 12-6.
“One of the things that has happened, and I remember when my son was in school here, and I’ve heard this all along, is that the best players go to North Augusta Middle School,” Higgenbottom said. “You look around our hallways and you see the kids walking around, but there are lot of good players at this school. We just wanted to get them out there and do little extra things that no one else does.
“The bottom line is, we send as many football players up to North Augusta High School for Coach Pippin to pick through as they do. If we’re successful here, then that helps him be successful up there.”
Scott Rodgers is the news editor at the North Augusta Star and has been with the paper since January 2013 after previously working at the Aiken Standard. He is a graduate of Alvernia University and currently attends Drexel University.