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McMurray won, molded men for the game of life

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Howey Sports Talk

By Robert Howey

 

 

Scan retiring Lancaster High School football coach Bennie McMurray’s resume and something hits you like a hard-charging blitzing linebacker.

The paper includes accolades and honors, on the field and off, but there’s no mention of wins and losses. It could be, but it’s not. Those figures are impressive, 218 in 27 years as a head football coach and over 419 victories guiding prep baseball teams.

At the same time, check the first line on McMurray’s resume and it’s what “Coach Mac” has been about in 38 years as a high school coach and teacher.

Objective – “To be a positive influence in the lives of young adults allowing them to become productive citizens.”

By following that idea, McMurray was able to produce a hall of fame career in high school coaching.

That winning formula took care of 600-plus wins as a head coach in football and baseball, not to mention eight state championships – three in football and five in baseball at neighboring Lewisville High School.

Coaches today wear many hats in addition to the ones donned during practice and game night.

McMurray – and many of his former and current players will tell you – was a “second father.” A few others might have called him indirectly “a first father.” He coached and molded men and the splendid success followed like a sweeping running back behind a lead blocker.

McMurray, a 2005 S.C. Coaches Association Hall of Famer, taught the fundamentals of football in building a sterling career, but he also gave his players and students guidance for life as “productive citizens.”

In the shadow of the goal post following Lancaster High School games, he’d review the game and what was and wasn’t done.

Before dismissing the squad, he’d tell them “don’t do anything to hurt the team,” as those always familiar McMurray wide eyes stressed his message like a human exclamation point.

Basically his message, there were eyes watching you tonight and there will be eyes on you in public. He didn’t mince his words – be responsible and accountable.

Then, he’d add when you go to church Sunday, put something in the plate.

“If you can, put in paper, not just the jingles stuff,” he would say.  Again, molding young minds, and providing key guidance for responsibility.

McMurray will be the first to tell you he’s “old school.”

I saw so first hand in the Bruins’ opening game of his final season at rival Andrew Jackson.

Early in the second half, he provided one of his top players an attitude adjustment, sending him to the locker room for the rest of the game. The game got interesting in the late stages with the determined Vols rallying to make it a 10-point game. That player might have been needed, but there was never a summons for him.

Late in the game after the Bruins recovered an onside kick, LHS broke a long run inside the AJ five, but McMurray opted to take a knee instead of padding the score with a meaningless touchdown.

A few seasons back following a jamboree when McMurray disciplined some players, he told me when asked about their status for the opener, “these guys are going to try me, but I’m not going to change.”

He’s stuck to his guns and shot straight.

Coach McMurray might not have always nailed the bull’s-eye, but he garnered his share. Each victory meant something.

Friday afternoon at a retirement press conference just outside the LHS main office a first down from the conference room where his hiring was announced seven years ago, he reflected on his career.

“I’ve enjoyed the run,” said McMurray, who recalled his first win as a head football coach at Lewisville High School, a 14-7 overtime victory over rival Chester, as a notable night.

“It’s been a good run,” McMurray said.

At Lancaster, his hometown school, the wins weren’t as frequent – 39-54 in eight seasons, but he had his share.

He noted several, but one which stands out was a 14-10 road upset playoff win over Class AAAA power Greenwood.

The win, which launched a postseason run to the Class AAAA Upper State title game, means as much today as it did that cold, wet November night at storied Babb Stadium.

Lancaster, a heavy underdog, stunned a talented Eagles’ squad, which featured three players who have or will play in the NFL.

“I cried like a baby after it was over,” he said.

Friday, there were no tears. McMurray seemed at ease and content with his body of work.

It would be hard – like trying to halt a hard-charging linebacker – to argue different.

Coach McMurray won his share of games, and with just as much success, molded men.