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Lewisville inducts first hall of fame class

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By The Staff

 

 Travis Jenkins

Landmark News Service

On Friday night, May 2, Lewisville High inducted its first-ever athletic hall of fame class. There were 10 inductees, including five players, three coaches and two teams. The following details the first six in the Lions class. The rest will be in a future edition.

Bennie McMurray

Jeremy McMurray obviously has a good sense of humor.

“I can’t write, or speak about ‘Coach Mac.’ I don’t know him. That’s just my dad,” he said to laughs.

He got that from wit from his dad.

“I can’t talk about Jeremy McMurray. That’s just my son,” Bennie “Coach Mac” McMurray shot back.

McMurray, who recently retired from coaching, was fully on board when he heard that Lewisville High a was starting an athletic hall of fame. He just wonders what took so long.

“I’m not going to say this is long overdue,” he chuckled. “But this is great.”

McMurray holds a special place in the hearts of Lewisville fans and alumni and the feeling is more that mutual. He called Lewisville the most special place he’s ever coached and said his best athletic memories lie in Richburg. 

McMurray was born in 1949. He played football and baseball at Lancaster’s Barr Street High School, before the dawn of integration.

Even then he was synonymous with winning, helping his alma mater to a state championship on the diamond. He earned himself a baseball scholarship to South Carolina State University, completed his education, then started looking for employment.

He ended up receiving an offer he did not expect. A former American Legion baseball coach called to offer him a job teaching and coaching at Buford High School. In 1983 he got another call. This one came from Jimmy “Moose” Wallace who offered him the chance to go come to Lewisville High School, where he would teach, serve as head baseball coach and would be an assistant football coach under Wallace. He remembers the school’s facilities being a little on sparse side when he arrived.

“We had a chicken wire backstop and no dugouts,” McMurray said.

The old football stadium sat on the side of the road, leaving McMurray to marvel that there was never a major traffic accident. That didn’t keep all the athletic teams at the school from thriving, though. 

“There is a difference between a school and a program. Lewisville was a program. We won at almost everything we did. The road to the state championship came through Lewisville in any sport,” he said.

After Lewisville won the Class A state football championship in 1987, Wallace left for Northwestern High School.McMurray was elevated to head football coach and Lewisville repeated as state champs the next season. During his 15 year-tenure at the school, the Lions football team averaged nearly 10 wins a year and advanced to the state title game five times, winning three, while the baseball team racked up five state crowns. Additionally, Lewisville became a major pipeline for college talent, sending dozens of players to Clemson, South Carolina and beyond.

One of his baseball players (Brian Williams) made it to the majors and multiple football players (Sheldon Brown, Mike Barber, William Strong) made it to the NFL. McMurray wasn’t just the beneficiary of a good talent run, though. He cultivated players, built and maintained feeder systems and set high standards. He was demanding, but he wanted to turn out productive citizens, not just athletes.

McMurray eventually left the school to coach football at Waddell High, then finished out his career back home in Lancaster. Not surprisingly, he won at both places. Lewisville has continued to win too, which McMurray has noticed and appreciates.

“It’s still there,” he said of winning tradition.

McMurray said his drive to win was instilled at him at an early age. He played on “a little country baseball team” coached by his father. He said there would be days he wouldn’t feel like playing.

“Pop would take a strap out. He’d give you one or two and you still had to go play. At all costs you were going to be the best you could be,” he said.

That extended to his professional career. In the old days, district baseball championships were decided in one day in one location. He remembers his team going to Jonesville and getting pounded. The district followed a double elimination format, so McMurray figured his team just had to take their beating in game one, and get ready for game two.

“Somebody grabbed me from behind and yanked me,” McMurray said. That somebody was his dad. “He said ‘you’re just sitting here and we’re getting our brains beat in You’ve got to do something.”

Competitiveness...he got that from his dad.

Lonzo Giles

If, as everyone insists, Lewisville is more a family than a school, then Lonzo Giles was the Lions patriarch.

In the early days of the school’s history, Giles was, in many ways, Lewisville athletics.

Giles coached the 1959 girls basketball team to a state championship and led the 1953 baseball team and and 1958 boys basketball team to state runner-up finishes.

Giles was also the track coach and started a golf team. He may be best remembered, though, as the school’s first football coach.

Chester and Great Falls had fielded competitive teams for many decades, but Lewisville didn’t enter the gridiron fray until 1953.

In those days, there wasn’t much specialization and there wasn’t a coach for every sport. Often, there was one coach on campus that handled all sports and at Lewisville, Giles was it.

Chester County Supervisor Carlisle Roddey,  “Voice of the Chester Cyclones” and emcee for Friday’s event, had Giles as a Sunday school teacher and said the coach wasn’t very well versed in football.

“I asked him one time, ‘What do you know about football?’ He said, ‘Nothing, I bought a book about it,” Roddey remembered.

He took his new duties seriously, with a 1953 edition of The Chester Reporter noting that Giles studied the sport under Presbyterian College coach Lonnie McMillan. The article notes Giles planned to employ a T-formation and Split-T look on offense.

There were challenges beyond just a coach lacking experience and players who hadn’t grown up participating in the sport. Making a schedule proved to be a challenge, since most established schools already had their slate set for 1953. That was one of the reasons Chester and Great Falls weren’t on the schedule that year.

The team played nine games instead of 11 that first season. Many of the schools on the initial schedule (Sharon, Flat Rock, Lockhart and Greenbriar) have since closed.

There were only two home games on the schedule, and calling them real home games is a stretch, since they were played at Chester’s stadium on nights that the Cyclones were on the road.

Jimmy Wooten, who introduced Giles for induction, remembers the first game. The green nature of the players showed.

“A ref threw a flag,” he said. “(Player) Chubby Long picked up the flag and said to the ref ‘Hey, I think you dropped your handkerchief.’”

By the team’s second year, though, Lewisville sported a winning record. Beyond his coaching accomplishments, which were many, Giles was a good teacher that cared for his students.

He chaperoned a field trip to New York, taking many students that had never left Chester County to a New York Yankees-Washington Senators game.

“He was a good coach but more than that he was a good person,” Wooten said.

Giles’ widow Ruth and daughter Joni Giles Truax accepted his induction plaque.

“We’re very touched that you’ve remembered him this way,” Truax said.

Debbie Rogers

Nicki McBrayer Nash went out for cheerleading at Lewisville High School in 1987.

Aside from having no uniforms, no money, no support and no transportation, the cheer squad had everything it needed to succeed. It had Debbie Rogers.

For a long time, cheerleading was viewed more as a club activity than a sport. That has changed over time, thanks in large part to people like Rogers.

From 1987 until 2001, there was not a more dominant program in any sport in the Palmetto State than Lewisville cheerleading.

Rogers’ cheer teams won 10 state championships during that time, including nine straight at one stretch.

“She begged, borrowed and probably stole for her team,” Nash joked. 

By the end of her first year at the helm of the program, Rogers had gotten her team camp outfits and two sets of cheerleading uniforms. She fought with other coaches and administrators for her team to be treated fairly and afforded the same accommodations as other athletes.

“She fought with them until we got gym time. It might have been at 6 a.m. or 8 p.m., but we got it,” Nash said.

She also got her team transportation to away games, though that came in the most unconventional form imaginable – prison vans.

“She was a most nonconventional cheer coach,” Nash said.

Nash remembers a trip to the beach in those vans.

Though Rogers expected her team to be well-behaved, maintain good grades and present themselves as ladies, she knew how to have a good time. She threw the doors open to the van and invited some male beach goers to hop in. 

They had a fun ride and likely thought themselves lucky to be in the company of a team of cheerleaders.

That feeling was likely fleeting. When the team got back to Ocean Lakes (where it was staying) she told the fellows they had to get out. They had to walk to back to Myrtle Beach.

Rogers’ niece, Tanya Morgan, said she remembers other coaches being in awe of her bold, brassy aunt. She also remembers the impact she had on countless students through the years.

“It’s not about what they did on Friday nights, it’s about the impact she had on their day-to-day lives,” Morgan said.

Rogers was so dedicated to her team, as she was battling cancer and near death, she convinced her doctors to let he “go see (her) girls” compete. If they’d said no, she had contingency plan, conspiring with nurses to sneak her out.

“She was in her wheelchair dancing along with them,” Rogers said.

Grady Bolton

There have been a number of impressive football firsts at Lewisville over the years. Grady Bolton is responsible for most of them.

When the Lions football team won its first conference title, Bolton was a standout on the team.

He played baseball, basketball and ran track at the school as well, but his gridiron exploits stood out.

He was an all-state pick and was the first Lewisville football player selected for the Shrine Bowl (where he was named Most Valuable Lineman). Then came the task of deciding where he would continue his academic and athletic careers.

“He was offered 30 scholarships,” said Lewisville High principal Dr. Jim Knox.

Bolton ultimately selected Mississippi State. He was an All-SEC selection, and in 1966 he became the first Lewisville football player drafted by a professional team.

In fact, he was drafted twice, going in the fifth round of the AFL Draft to the Miami Dolphins and the 15th round of the NFL Draft to the Green Bay Packers.

He decided to play for the Dolphins and made the opening day roster of the first-ever Miami team.

Bolton has been married to his wife, Joyce, for 52 years. He is still an active part of the Lewisville family as well.

“Grady is still a great supporter of Lewisville athletics,” Knox said.

Bolton kept his acceptance speech short and to the point.

“I got my first honor at Lewisville,” he said with a wide smile. “And I guess this will be my last one.”

Lisa Waldrop Rivers

The only problem with inducting Lisa Waldrop Rivers into the Lewisville Athletic Hall of Fame is figuring out which of her amazing accomplishments to list first.

“She scored 1,474 points...she held school records in the 800 (meters), 1600 (meters) and high jump. She was a drum major, active in FCA, a junior marshall and a member of the Beta Club. I guess you could say she was well-rounded,” said Wallace, who introduced Rivers.

Part of the criteria considered for enshrinement in Lewisville’s hall is accomplishments after leaving Lewisville and Rivers excelled there as well.

Playing for legendary coach Sylvia Hatchell, Rivers was a freshman All-American at Francis Marion. The school won three NAIA District VI championships and a national title.

After her college graduation, Rivers ended up in Arkansas and bluntly said she didn’t enjoy the experience.

“I was miserable,” she said. “My husband said ‘If you can find a job, we’ll go home.’”

A position opened at Northwestern High School in Rock Hill. She interviewed after church on a Sunday and started work Monday.

From 1995 until 2000, Rivers coached girls basketball at Northwestern, posting a 109-46 record. She still works at the school.

Rivers still fondly remembers her time at Lewisville. 

Remembering things fondly doesn’t mean they were always easy, though. Her dad taught her the jump shot that would net her over 1,400 career prep points and a national title.

He bought her a basketball goal, but it didn’t come with a pole, so he cut down a cedar tree to make a suitable base. When she first practiced the high jump at school, her landing pad was some old tires where foam laid on top.

“You want us to jump on that?” she remembers asking. She realizes now it was one of the things that made her tough.

Rivers has had many successes in life and says she has Lewisville to thank for setting her on the right path in many ways.

“I’ve always considered Lewisville home. You can always come home.

“I’m proud to say I’m a product of Lewisville. If not for Lewisville and athletics, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” she said.

Wesley McFadden

Wallace remembers getting an earful from former Clemson coach Danny Ford and South Carolina coach Joe Morrison because of running back Wesley McFadden.

The two were in the stands one night and saw the Lions star rush for 250 yards and four touchdowns.

Both wanted to know why Wallace had never mentioned McFadden to them, since they would obviously have recruited him.

“I told them to relax. He was only a sophomore,” Wallace said.

Wallace said McFadden is one of the best players he’s ever coached, but that isn’t why he holds him in such high regard.

“You go through life and meet people that put their footprints on your heart. I could talk about Wesley McFadden the athlete forever. He was great and that’s an understatement. This young man gave everything everyday and he was an All-American in the classroom and community too,” Wallace said.

McFadden loved sports, mainly as a way to escape work at home for a while.

“I played football because it was easier than work,” he joked.

Wallace remembered calling McFadden’s house once to speak to him. He was told that McFadden had gotten on a tractor that morning at 6 a.m. and wouldn’t be off of it until 8 p.m. Obviously McFadden learned the value of an honest day’s work early on, but that wasn’t all he learned.

“There is nothing wrong with hard work, but it’s better to work smart,” McFadden said.

Wallace said he did both on the field and it showed. To this day, McFadden’s stats look gaudy. He ran for 5,600 yards and 71 touchdowns for the Lions.

Those numbers obviously got him a lot of attention. Recruiters from nearly every major school paid a visit to Richburg. Wallace remembers a Penn State assistant visiting town.

“He asked me about Wesley’s 40-yard dash time,” Wallace said. “I told him I intended no offense, but I didn’t know it. I just knew he was always a step faster than the guy chasing him.”

Ford did eventually get that player from Lewisville he coveted after watching him run for 250 yards as a sophomore. McFadden was a defensive back as a freshman at Clemson, then shifted to tailback as a sophomore. His natural talent was evident to anyone with eyes that year as he put up a 245-yard performance against Virginia Tech.

Unfortunately, as his career progressed, injuries forced McFadden to switch positions. He became an undersized fullback. At 190 pounds, he willingly blocked defensive linemen and linebackers and ended up getting hurt.

“That shows the personality and character of Wesley McFadden,” Wallace said. “If he had stayed at tailback, he would have played in the NFL.”

Wallace said Ford once told him that McFadden was the hardest working player he ever coached.

Even though he played in Death Valley and other giant college venues, McFadden says nothing compares to the atmosphere he played in at Lewisville.

“On Friday nights, it wasn’t Rock Hill or Northwestern. Everybody came to watch Lewisville play. In football, chess, checkers, whatever, we wanted to win,” he said.

That support, along with the education and life lessons he received during his time as a Lion, are still with McFadden today.

“It’s always home. The Lewisville High family made me well-equipped to face the world,” McFadden said.