Each year the head coach at Presbyterian College addresses the Laurens County Touchdown Club.
Tommy Spangler never fails to impress.
Taking a program that is gradually eliminating scholarships and cushioning that fall is no easy task. The Blue Hose are winding down their membership in the Big South Conference, and that means playing schools with a full complement of scholarships at one whose grants are getting fewer every year.
Soon PC will be playing mostly like-minded schools. Next year the Blue Hose will be an Football Championship Subdivision Independent. In 2021, they join the Pioneer Football League, which means all its members play non-scholarship football, still in the FCS, while other sports still give scholarships as members of NCAA Div. I.
It’s no easy task. Spangler isn’t backing down. Spangler never backs down.
Peyton Spangler, who is coaching at Clinton High School, introduced his father and said going into coaching (following his graduation from Newberry College) made him both his father and a father figure as a coach.
Sure, Presbyterian went 2-8 last year, and Mercer defeated the Blue Hose, 45-7, in this year’s opener. Sure, PC’s most recent winning season was in 2014.
Spangler is still all in, wide open and full speed, as are his players. No one could do this impossible task better. Of his players, he said, “They have learned a lot that is going to help them in the real world.
“We are honoring the game. We are celebrating the game. You coach because you love the game. … I love the game.”
The world has changed. The game has changed, more at Presbyterian than at most other places. Spangler and his staff have a lot to do. In addition to coaching the players, he and his staff have to wash the uniforms, sweep the floors, mop them. Sometimes getting ready for a game must be daunting.
I used to think of myself as a soldier / Holding his own against impossible odds / Badly outnumbered and caught in a crossfire / Of devils and gods. – Dan Fogelberg
“It’s my life,” Spangler said. “It’s their (coaches and players) life. They don’t make squat. There’s too much they’ve got to do. These guys deserve to be supported. That’s what life is at PC.”
Another feature of Thursday’s meeting was a celebration of PC’s Cally Gault, who died earlier this year.
“Coach Gault was PC,” Spangler said. “He still is. When I think of things, I think of people. I don’t think of buildings. When I think of PC, I think of Cally Gault.
Bob Strock, Gault’s longtime assistant, said of Gault, “He fired me so many times. Then we’d make our peace, and he’d rehire me.”
Strock recalled the 1960s, when the son of the governor, Bobby McNair, played flanker for the Blue Hose. Some of the veteran players doubted his toughness and said he wouldn’t last a week. McNair came into Gault’s office planning to quit.
“Well, I hate to hear that,” Gault said, according to Strock. “That caused me to lose my bet.”
Gault said the bet was that Gov. Robert McNair’s son wouldn’t stick it out.
“Bobby did stick it out,” Strock said, “and went on to be a great player.”
He said Gault gave his players only one training rule: “Don’t do anything your mother wouldn’t want you to do.
“What a great guy Cally Gault was.”
The county’s three high school coaches brought along players to be honored by the club. Laurens’ Chris Liner brought his offensive line: Hunter Mann, Cole England, Braedon Smith, Austin James and Grayson Tallent. Clinton’s Corey Fountain brought wide receiver Jeremiah Boyd and linebacker Austin Caughman. Laurens Academy’s Todd Kirk brought running back Clarence Bertoli and lineman Carson Venable.
Presbyterian College is at home on Saturday night against Jacksonville (Fla.) at 7. The Friday games, all at 7:30 p.m., are Laurens at Hillcrest, Powdersville at Clinton and St. John’s Christian Academy at Laurens Academy.
The Touchdown Club meets every other Thursday at The Ridge at noon during the season. The next speaker, on Sept. 26, is South Carolina State head coach Buddy Pough.