Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Shap Boyd has a year in Due West. Erskine College’s football team practices every other day. When it lines up – somewhere in the area, most likely at Dixie High School – against Catawba College on September 5, 2020, it will mark the Flying Fleet’s first game since November 17, 1951.
At the Laurens County Touchdown Club on Thursday, where Boyd discussed his aspirations, no one required any research. Bob Strock, longtime assistant coach at Presbyterian College and a Touchdown Club member boasting almost perfect attendance, played quarterback for Erskine in that game 68 years, 355 days ago. It took a little more figuring – and the inclusion of 17 leap years – to determine that 24,837 days have passed since the Fleet was figuratively sent to the boneyard after a record of 0-8-1.
Boyd, noted for defense in many years as an assistant coach, succeeds John D. McMillan from a distance. Erskine football skipped 11 presidents.
Oh, they’re serious about it. Practice started in August with 132 players. At least five or six left. Fifteen or 20 are injured. Boyd and his staff used about nine scholarships, less than what were allotted, this year and hope to have a program of 150 when the program starts playing other schools. Its last game was against Presbyterian. Erskine will also face the Blue Hose next year, in Clinton, on October 24.
A stadium awaits, probably to be constructed around the soccer field. The football office was once a convenience store. When the training room opened, Boyd almost immediately noticed it didn’t have a sink.
Due West is a college town, which is to say not much else is there. The local residents take pride in their Dollar General.
“It’s a little on the smallish side,” Boyd said.
The plan is to build a competitive Division II program.
“Football gets a bad rap sometime nowadays,” Boyd said, “but ultimately, as a sport, it doesn’t get much better.
“There’s a place in football where a tough guy can still make it. A lot of sports strictly require athleticism. Football takes passion. … It requires hard work. You can’t fake it. Life’s that way. In life, you can’t be lukewarm and be successful.
Boyd admitted it’s hard to make enough progress coaching a team that only lines up against one another. Football is part of a greater plan to boost the school from 708 students to perhaps 1,200 within five years or so. Boyd hopes the school’s membership in Conference Carolinas will bear the fruit of football competition against schools such as North Greenville, Barton, Chowan, Lees-McRae and others. It will take six to add football as a conference sport.
It’s a long slog ahead, but Boyd knew that when he signed up.
“I don’t want to talk anymore,” he said. “I want to play.”
Honored high school players were Ryan Campbell, Duane Martin, Quin Patterson and Jackson Mahon from Laurens District High School; Marchavis Choice, Danny Belton and Rasheed Smith; and Diamonte Grant, Thomas Lowry, Cal Robertson, Carson Venable and Reles Littleton from Laurens Academy.