WINNSBORO — Leadership and intangibles have been a catalyst for a Fairfield Central football team devoid of blue chip and five-star recruits making its way to the 2AA State Championship Game.
Coach Demetrius Davis said that his senior leaders asserted themselves beginning with a summer retreat to Camp Bob Horton in Saluda, N.C. Varsity and junior varsity players slept outside in tents, were not allowed cell phones or video games and they bonded during the two-day event.
“We became like a family and adopted the team slogan of ‘together’ realizing that as a team anything we do, we have to do together,” David said.
The seniors embraced it and worked hard almost year round from June 2, doing 7-on-7 drills and practicing four hours per day.
Junior quarterback and track star DeAndre Belton grew each week of the season in just his second year playing organized football, thanks to extra time spent with quarterbacks coach Ryan Sharpe working on passing fundamentals and the nuances of the position.
Two seniors anchored the offensive line with Dexter Finch converting to center and making all the calls for the offense as a coach on the field.
Davis was thrilled with Finch’s efforts, noting how steady his snaps were all season and how their spread offense all starts with the center, particularly as they trained a relatively inexperienced quarterback to read defenses at the varsity level.
Lynn-Tony Young played both ways, tallying three sacks and opening holes for senior running back Damian Bell who averaged 6.98 yards per carry, rushing for 1180 yards and 20 touchdowns. Bell also caught 12 passes for 278 yards and a score. Belton rushed for 1,158 yards, 11.03 per carry, and proved a dual threat quarterback, passing for 1,487 yards with 18 touchdowns to nine interceptions. He also scored 11 rushing touchdowns for the Griffins.
Junior Devonta Foster proved his mettle, becoming a ball hawk whose eight interceptions led the team and put him in the tops in the region for that category. Passers were under duress often as thanks to the 18 sacks posted by North-South All-Star selection senior Raheem McDaniel.
Junior Compton Walker and senior Michell Crosby made their impact on special teams with game changing plays, such as Crosby’s blocked punt against Cheraw. Walker kicked extra points and returned kicks, including one for a touchdown against Pelion, in addition to playing defensive back alongside Foster.
This nucleus helped the team return to heights not seen in 15 years.
This will be Davis’ first chance at a state championship. A 1995 FCHS graduate, he missed out on the 1996 and 1997 teams coached by legendary Buddy Pough. He hopes to follow in his mentor’s footsteps on Friday night and bring the title back to Fairfield County.
“Kids feed off their coach,” he said. “It’s a football game, no matter what. In life they will have situations similar to the game, so you have to keep it in perspective. We wanna win but at the same time it’s just another game to us in our approach. I think the team that does the little things the best will win.”
Davis thanked the community for their fan support, especially at the Upper State Championship game. He called it one of the best crowds in the history of Fairfield County and knows fans will travel well to Benedict in support of the Griffins.