THIS WEEK'S TOP STORIES
By Jason Lesley
Assistant coach Tyler Vick must have thought it was a pretty safe bet when he offered to shave his head if the Waccamaw Middle School football team went undefeated this season.
After all, no Waccamaw football team had ever had a perfect season at any level in 24 years.
But this year’s Waccamaw Middle School team was a different breed of Wildcat. Captain Rion Fox said team members expected to win every game — they had already had a two perfect seasons in the county’s recreation league.
Coach Eric Sparkman and Vick knew they had a winner when practice started. “We just wanted them to stay focussed,” Sparkman said after Vick kept his part of the bargain at a head-shaving ceremony in the school gym last week as payment on a 6-0 record. “This is one of the best teams coaches in this area have ever seen,” Sparkman said. “They are very disciplined. From Day 1, these guys came out ready to play football. We just had to make sure they knew the fundamentals. Every day they gave 110 percent as we asked, and everything else was history.”
Vick’s hair was history after he allowed school principal Jamie Curry to make the first pass with the electric shears right down the middle of his scalp, Waccamaw baseball coach Jeff Gregory to cut one side and Sparkman to buzz cut the rest while students cheered. Vick’s father said the haircut resembled the one-and-only time he tried to cut little Tyler’s hair at home years ago. “My wife nearly killed me,” he said. “I had it all chopped up.”
The football players were invited to surround Vick as he got his trim. “Get the eyebrows,” one of them shouted.
Curry said she saw Vick “sort of moping” around school on haircut day, so she decided to turn it into a positive situation. She turned the ceremony into a fundraiser for Trey Busby, a Waccamaw Intermediate School student diagnosed with cancer. Her pay-it-forward idea caught on with the students and Brian Henry, owner of Palmetto Cheese and Get Carried Away, and the Waccamaw High baseball team promised to match their contributions to “Treystrong.” Dunes Realty and James W. Smith Realty each pledged $100, and the hair razing became a fundraising, taking in $1,600 in one day.
“We all know what a fighter Trey is,” Curry said.
Sparkman said the coaches’ goal was to teach their players life lessons and transform that into football. He talked with his former coaches at Waccamaw High, Burney Bourne and Robert Burdette, along with the Warriors head coach Tyronne Davis when he had questions.
The players just kept believing, winning close games over Rosemary and Carvers Bay and a thriller over Johnsonville when Jaylen Sparkman’s touchdown broke an 8-8 tie late in the fourth quarter and Fox caused a fumble that sealed the win. The Wildcats have unusual size for a B team of seventh- and eighth-graders and so many leaders they elected five captains. In addition to Fox and Jaylen Sparkman, they were Walker Parler, Kendrick Williams and Colby Eckard.
The final win came in a 12-point blowout of Georgetown Middle School, the Wildcats second win of the season over their rivals. “I really wanted to win that game,” Jaylen Sparkman said.
Coach Sparkman said he’s looking forward to seeing what his players can do next as junior varsity and varsity players at Waccamaw High.