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On a recent visit to Gaffney’s Reservation, I told my son, Jackson, this was my first visit to this Gaffney High football field.
He asked me about the old Reservation, Gaffney’s former football field. Of course, I told him about the famed “Gaffney tunnel,” the passage through the old stadium to the field. I experienced the tunnel as a player and fan.
“One thing you wanted to do was make sure you had your helmets on tight when you ran through the tunnel,” I told him.
Quite likely, there was more than an Indians fans’ verbal abuse hurled at opposing teams as they entered the field at the old Gaffney stadium.
Jackson also asked if a team had ever not taken the tunnel. I told him I saw it happen once.
It was back in the mid-1960s and Gaffney was playing Great Falls. The Red Devils coach Harvey Stewart opted to take his team down the little hill to the field instead of the tunnel.
That was Harvey Stewart. He did things his own way.
Harvey, of course, died here a week ago.
Jackson wanted to know why Great Falls was playing Gaffney. Again. That was Harvey Stewart. He did it his way.
Harvey had this old saying, “a football player is a football player,” meaning no matter what size school you played for, a player, if he could master blocking and tackling, could hold his own and the experience would only make him a better player.
It harkens another Stewart football story. Back in his college days when Harvey played football at Erskine College, the Flying Fleet’s coach told the team they were having a scrimmage in North Carolina the next day.
The EC team loaded the bus and headed for North Carolina. Around Charlotte, Stewart figured they were headed for Davidson, but the bus kept rolling and passed routes to schools like Elon and Lenoir Rhyne.
White en route, Harvey said he read a “Street and Smith’s” preseason college football magazine.
The bus finally reached its destination in Durham, N.C., where Erskine was slated to scrimmage the Duke Blue Devils, who were led by the legendary Wallace Wade. When Harvey went out to do battle, he found he was looking into the face of All-American Al DeRogatis, who graced the magazine he read on the way up. DeRogatis earned fame as an All-Pro lineman and later as a TV commentator for NBC’s pro football games.
Harvey, in his humble way, never said how he did that day, but knowing Harvey he competed hard, in much the same way his Red Devils did for more than 30 years in coaching against the likes of Gaffney, Hartsville and Dillon.
For the record, Harvey posted a 91-71 record at Great Falls, but it wasn’t all about the wins and losses. In addition to coaching football, Harvey coached girls and boys basketball, golf and baseball.
In golf, a sport he dearly loved, Harvey led the Red Devils to three state titles and nine of his golfers went on to become club professionals.
He did all those and handled the chores of athletic director.
In addition, he taught college prep courses in biology, chemistry and physics. He also found time to line off the field, and when he wasn’t coaching, you would likely find him running the concession stand.
Several years back as part of the annual S.C. High School Coaches Clinic in late July, Harvey was asked to attend as part of a coaching legends program to tell how it was in their day as a coach.
Given a chance to discuss his coaching career, Harvey didn’t mince words. He told it like it was in his day – the coaching duties and teaching load.
Whatever, he did it, and did it well. Harvey didn’t boast. That wasn’t his nature. He just told the coaches how it was in his day in education, impacting and molding young people.
When Harvey was inducted into the S.C. Coaches Hall of Fame, and most deservedly so, he again spoke from the heart. It wasn’t about big wins and state titles. What he thought about was his impact.
He recalled one Red Devils road trip to the Georgetown area. He made the most of the long trip to take the students to the beach. He noted some of the students saw the Atlantic Ocean for the first time. In his moment of glory, he shared a story of a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
That was Harvey Stewart. He did things the right way.