Fan hopes SHS football can snap its losing ways

Published 7:55 am Friday, September 17, 2010

by Ricky L. Johnson Sr.

As a child growing up in Southampton County, going to football games on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons wasn’t just a pastime, but sort of a ritual.

The former Peanut District was almost like the current Southeastern Conference football in college, with Southampton High School being the Florida Gators of that time.

In the 1970s, there were playoff wins and state championships — all with dominating wins. The games were standing room only. The sight of young men dressed in red uniforms entering the field was intimidating to opposing teams, electrifying to the crowd and, as a kid, gave me goose bumps!

These were times still talked about and will forever be woven into the fabric of this county.

As an adult and avid football fan of high school, college and pro football, I have continued to follow Southampton football.

Now after the long overdue resignation of Coach Littleton Parker, 2010 sees a change. Whether it is a good change or not remains to be seen. The change is a new coach. Wes Griffith.

Yes, it has only been two regular-season games so far. There are some refreshing changes that I’ve noticed, like a little more imagination on offense; more players seem to be actually playing now.

There is a renewed hope in the air after the 22-year tenure of Parker, but I wanted to point out something that I thought was very damaging to the beginning of the Griffith era.

Friday night against Franklin, there was a noticeable confidence and determination from players and an overwhelming excitement from the crowd that Southampton could put an end to Franklin’s domination of the Indians.

Even after the opening kickoff was returned by Franklin for a touchdown, Southampton continued to fight. It was a great game up until late third quarter.

Here was the turnaround. Southampton, facing about a fourth and six at midfield, went for it and was only behind by 8 points in the fourth quarter. Are you kidding me?

“Punt the ball,” yelled many men sitting around me that knew that conventional football wisdom should tell Coach Griffith to punt, and may I add that Southampton has a good punter.

Southampton failed to convert and handed Franklin the ball with excellent field position. Franklin converted a fourth and short, and subsequently scored.

That score, resulting from the decision of the coach to try and get a first down out of a fourth-and-long situation, literally sucked the fight out of Southampton’s players and renewed the despair that has been plaguing fans of Southampton’s football program for years now.

I believe that a coach’s responsibility is to make decisions that will give players a chance to win. Coach Griffith’s decision to punt was wrong and, as we now know, was detrimental.

However, those who read Sunday’s article in The Tidewater News (“Franklin tops SHS 42-23”) wouldn’t know that because Frank A. Davis, writer of that article, didn’t mention that important fact. Maybe he is a Franklin fan and wanted to give people the impression that Franklin did something special in the fourth quarter.

No. They were given a gift by Southampton’s coach. Now, how many of readers would give back a good gift?

Something else I noticed: Southampton had far more depth than Franklin, but wasn’t exposed by Southampton. For instance, the starting running back was given multiple carries, and yes he is good, but a good player does no one good when tired. It is like having a $100,000 Mercedes Benz in the driveway with no gas in it.

There should have been fresh players all night fighting Franklin. If the players have been there since the summer, they should play, especially the seniors. Remember, it is a public school program, not a pro team.

Again, there are some changes, but Coach Griffith is a disciple of Coach Parker.

I wonder if the old edict will remain true in this case. The one that goes like this: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

RICKY L. JOHNSON SR. is a 1988 graduate of Southampton High School and resides in Courtland. He has been a truck driver for 18 years and moved back to the county in 2002 because he wanted his kids to attend Southampton County schools. His e-mail address is