SALUDA, S.C. (WIS) - The Saluda High School Tigers have their eyes set on something that hasn’t been accomplished in 56 years, but the team’s seniors believe this year’s team has what it takes to win it all.
The last time the Tigers won a football state title was in 1963, after winning it the year before in 1962.
“It’s been tough, but coach and some of the players, we stuck together, we fought and we kept fighting until where we at now,” said wide receiver Jervon Whitt.
Last week, the Tigers got behind early against rival and powerhouse Abbeville, but came storming back in the second half to a cap off a 32-28 victory.
“That was big, it was so huge,” Whitt said. “Our senior class hasn’t ever beaten them and to have the crowd there too, it was a great thing for our town and our team.”
The season hasn’t been perfect, but the players said the adversities have made the group stronger and they’re ready to leave it all on the field against Barnwell on Friday night.
“It’s been real fun. We’ve had a whole bunch of big games. We’ve made a bunch of big plays and we’ve had a lot of players on our team make some really standout plays during the playoff run,” said Matthew Herlong, a defensive end.
“It’s special. I mean, Saluda hasn’t gotten to the state championship in a really long time. It’s a big accomplishment for the senior class,” said senior Fulton Winn.
The team’s success wouldn’t be possible without the support it has received from the community, the seniors said. Several shops around town are selling playoff tickets, with lines wrapped around the building last week at Added Touch in downtown Saluda.
“We had a line out the door and there was so much excitement, some of the people in the front of the line were getting numerous tickets. We ran out and had to turn people away which was saddening,” said Marti Coleman Adams.
That support, the players said, doesn’t go unnoticed.
“It’s really good. It’s awesome,” said Jacob McCary, a linebacker. “They’re always backing us up, cheering for us. They’re always loud. They really hyped us up at Abbeville and just really encouraged us a lot.”
A trophy case that hasn’t seen a state championship trophy sits in the school hallway ready for its newest addition. The team is more than ready to bring the hardware home.
“One last ride, with my boys. Go to war with them for one last time,” Winn said.
The district said Friday’s game will be historic of sorts as it will mark the first time African-American football players at Saluda High School will play in a state title game, as the 1963 win came before integration.