CLOVER — Chad Smith, who returned Easley football to the glory days of yesteryear in a successful three-year tenure there, relishes the opportunity to restore the Blue Eagle program to Upstate supremacy.
Smith, a student of the wing-T philosophy in his chosen profession, was last week named head football coach at Clover High School. The Blue Eagles finished this past season 0-11, and hope that Smith can turn things around for a program that won a state title only five years back and averaged nearly nine wins per season from 2000 to 2009.
“Clover is a destination job, a great place for my family and me,” Smith said in an interview this week with the Enquirer-Herald. “It’s a 4A school in a small town, the only high school in the district. I am excited about the opportunity.”
Smith, a Pickens native and a graduate of Pickens High School, replaces John Barrett, who served as Clover’s interim coach after John Devine abruptly resigned four games into the 2012 season.
Smith, a vibrant 33-year-old head coach whose personable demeanor exudes confidence, will tell you flat-out that he cut his teeth on the pure wing-T the likes of former Blue Eagle head coach Marty Woolbright.
He will implement more of the double-wing version crafted by Jet Turner, whose eight-year stint as head coach included the 2007 state championship. “We will be more power-based and counter-based than Jet’s double-wing,” noted Smith.
The affable coach said he had a running back with speed to burn last season at Easley, which makes any offense more potent. While the Clemson commit was a game-changer, Smith said the double-wing alignment can survive without blazing speed.
“My first year at Easley, we didn’t have a back with under 4.8 speed in the 40 and won nine games,” he said. “There were games where we held the ball 34 minutes.”
If Blue Eagle fans think Smith will keep it close to the vest in his play selection, think again.
Conservative play-calling is not what Chad Smith is all about.
“We had a fouth-and-1 at our own 9 against Daniel and went for it,” Smith concedes. “If we can’t make it on fourth-and-1, we don’t deserve to win.”
Smith wants Clover fans to know that the Blue Eagles will be in four-down territory when they cross the 40.
In last week’s official announcement of Smith’s hiring, Clover School District Superintendent Dr. Marc Sosne said there were 60 applicants for the Blue Eagle head coaching position.
Sosne lauded the new coach as a “dynamic young man.”
CHS athletic director Carroll Hester echoed the sentiments of the total administration. “Chad is the ideal coach to rebuild the football program,” said Hester. “He is a high-energy individual who loves kinds.”
Clover High Scholl principal Mark Hopkins said he knew the community was ready for the next step when Blue Eagle fans poured onto the field during their first home game.
Said Hopkins, “Coach Smith will impact the team and community as much as any coach we’ve had.”
Smith led Easley to a 29-9 record, the program’s best victory total since the Green Wave won 29 games from 1971 to 1973.
Smith’s passion for his chosen profession runs deep.
““I don’t believe in rebuilding,” declared the new head coach matter-of-factly. “I believe in winning games. I know the schedule will be tough with teams like Northwestern, South Pointe and York. We have a lot of work to do.”
Smith began placing the groundwork for the Blue Eagle program-to-be moments after last week’s announcement was made public.
“I have been interviewing coaches and met with a good many of the players,” he said. “I will meet with the remaining varsity players as well as the middle school staff and players next week.”
Smith, a 2001 graduate of Concord (W.Va.) University, was head coach for two years at Northern Nash (N.C.) High School. He also worked at West Montgomery High School and Rocky Mount High School as an assistant coach.
His wife, Hannah, is a West Virginia native and was a four-year all conference soccer player at Concord, earning a degree in business management. They have three boys, Hunter, 7, Ashton, 5, and Shepherd, 3, with another boy, Bennett, due this month.
Smith said he is ready to embrace his destination job. “This is a wonderful place to raise our kids,” he noted. “I plan to be in Clover for the next 25 years.”