Traditionally, Silver Bluff just knows winning
Keith Radford found himself hard pressed to think of many Silver Bluff traditions when reflecting on his 20-plus years as an assistant coach for the Bulldogs. Not that there aren’t any to think of. It’s just that Radford’s favorite tradition was pretty simple.
“Just winning,” Radford said with a laugh.
But, seriously, that’s all the Bulldogs have done for more than 30 years. To be exact, the Bulldogs have won 340 times. Silver Bluff has only had two losing seasons since opening in 1981. According to former assistant coach Eric Hofstetter, it’s simple what the kids know out in Petticoat Junction.
“It’s really just the attitude of the players,” Hofstetter said. “It’s a winning tradition. It really is. A lot of it you can’t coach. I guess it’s just something that’s engrained in the kids very young and it just sticks with them.”
Silver Bluff has all the signatures of a powerhouse program. The school has won five state championships – including back-to-back titles in 1991-92 and 2000-01 – and appeared in the state title game two other times. The 2000-2001 teams hold the fifth longest winning streak in state history, winning 30 consecutive games during the stretch.
The success has also spanned the tenure of several coaches. Al Lown has the longest stint and the most wins, but Butch Jacobs and Clayton Chriswell enjoyed immense success as well. Jacobs had a pair of championships in only four years as the head coach. Chriswell, who was the Bulldogs’ first coach, won 94 games in eight seasons and won the school’s first state championship in 1985. Chriswell made it to at least the state semifinals in each of his final four years as the head coach at Silver Bluff.
There have also been a number of Bulldogs who have gone on to be stars at the collegiate and professional level. It’s a list that includes D’Wayne Bates, DeMarcus Lawrence, Troy Williamson, Corey Chavous and Cordrea Tankersley as some of the most prolific names.
Radford said all the kids have the same spirit as the ones who’ve become big name players. “They always expected to win,” Radford said.
“Didn’t matter the score of the ball game, if we did what we were supposed to do, everything would work out,” he said. “The kids always knew exactly what was expected, and they were dedicated enough to go do it.”
Silver Bluff has been an extra special place for Radford as his children graduated from the school and he got to coach his son, Drew. Drew grew up in the program, and the elder Radford jokes that his son learned former head coach Al Lown’s signals before Keith had.
If winning was Radford’s No. 1 Silver Bluff tradition, then ’31′ would have the be 1B. Not the number, but the offensive play instead. That’s what Silver Bluff used to call for a power sweep to the right.
“I remember Joe Wilson running 31 against Barnwell in the Lower State championship game and breaking it,” Radford said.
The play, a 54-yard touchdown run in the second quarter of the game, helped propel the Bulldogs to the state championship against Abbeville. That’s where one of Hofstetter’s favorite memories comes from.
It occurred on an Abbeville drive following a Wilson touchdown run. Artis Roberson recovered a fumble in the closing moments to secure a victory and a perfect season for Silver Bluff.
“It was one of those moments where everything is quiet and they’re looking at who recovered the fumble, and he came out and pointed our direction,” Hoffstetter said. “That was a huge moment I always remember right there.”
Silver Bluff has been a huge part of Hofstetter’s and Radford’s day-to-day lives. They both still work at the school.
“It’s been my life for countless years,” Hofstetter said. “It’s amazing the pride that has been shown by the communities and how special they’ve made it.”
“I wouldn’t be anywhere else,” Radford said. “I’ve had the opportunities, but I wouldn’t be anywhere else.”