Integration highlights Clinton football’s 100-year tradition

Clinton won 4 state titles in 1970s after integrating team
Clinton HS celebrates 100 years
Published: Sep. 14, 2023 at 7:09 PM EDT
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CLINTON, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - This year marks 100 years of Clinton High School football, and this Friday, the team is celebrating by welcoming back former players, including members of its eight state championship teams.

Clinton football has several assistant coaches who were once players, like Bobby Jones, a running back and kicker on the 1978 state title team.

“On Friday night, everything closes but the drug stores around here ‘cause everyone’s at the football game on Friday nights,” Jones said.

Forty-five years after Coach Jones’ state title, Fridays are still a holiday in the old 8,000-person textile mill town.

“On Friday nights, the town shuts down, and everybody shows up at Wilder stadium,” Head Coach Corey Fountain said.

“Every Friday, the town shuts down,” Senior Defensive Back Zay “Gravy” Johnson, who is committed to playing at Cincinnati next year, said. “You ask everybody where they’re at, they’re going to say they’re at the Clinton High football game on Friday nights.”

That Friday night tradition really took off in 1969 when Clinton hired Keith Richardon as the football team’s head coach and integrated the team in 1970. Allowing everyone to play helped them win four state titles in the decade.

“It just brought the town together, and I think that’s (football) just been the glue to the city since then,” Assistant Coach and former quarterback Dontavius Glenn said.

FOX Carolina asked Glenn if Clinton experienced racial unity through integration and the team’s football success in the ‘70s.

“Most definitely,” Glenn said. “And if you look in every town, football is probably the one thing that brings everybody together no matter who you are or what color you are.”

They stay together, even when they disagree. Coach Glenn was the quarterback of the Clinton team that made it all the way to the state championship game in the early 2000s.

Zay “Gravy” Johnson says the old timers don’t let the current guys forget their success. He said they frequently get into arguments about who had the best Clinton team of all time.

“Yes! We definitely get into arguments, especially with coach Glenn’s team,” Johnson said. “They say they were the best to come through here. But I feel like our last year’s team was the best. So we always talk about if we were in the same grade and we played each other, we would win. We always tell them that.”

Last year’s team won its first 13 games before losing to Powdersville 27-14 in the upper state championship, which is also known as the state semifinals.

Across the last two seasons and this season, Clinton has 28 wins and just three losses.

FOX Carolina’s Tailgate Tour is headed to Clinton Friday to witness its football team’s 100th-anniversary celebration and see if the team can start 5-0 with a win over Chapman.