NEWBERRY — Will Vandervort, senior writer and editor for the Clemson Insider and former sports editor for The Newberry Observer, compared the 2001 Newberry High School football team to the 2015 Clemson football team during Monday’s Touchdown Club.
“When Clemson went on its run in 2015, after covering Clemson going on the 12th season that year, they were mediocre until Dabo got there. That 2015 game came, and they were going through that course of the season, they reminded me of the 2001 Newberry team because I remember how that year captivated this small town, you guys went 13-0 at the start of the season and everybody was captivated by what they could do,” Vandervort said. “There were no Division One players on the team (Newberry), these guys came together and worked together, like a band of brothers if you will, and it was a fun team to cover, and I loved working with the coaching staff and the players.”
While Vandervort said that the Newberry team was not the most talented in the world, but they did come together for a common goal.
“Each Friday night they went out there and they dominated and they beat every team that they played. Then they ended up playing a team who did have a lot of Division One Players, Camden, in the Upper State finals. I tell you what, you guys gave them a run. I remember the team working so hard to win that game, even though the odds were against them,” he said.
Vandervort was reminded of that 2001 Newberry team in 2015 because of how the Tigers played for each other.
“The 2015 team was closer than the 2016 team because they had not been there before. They were trying to get to the top of the mountain, they stayed focused, played hard,” he said. “That whole team, they worked together so well, it was fun to cover them.”
Clemson would then go to play Alabama, and Vandervort said much like Newberry with Camden, Alabama just had a little bit more than they did, and they just fell short of their goal of winning the National Championship.
“But you knew that the core of the team was coming back, and that they were going to put themselves in that position to come back again next year,” Vandervort said. “Last year you knew the pressure was on Coach Swinney to win, you could feel that pressure building on them each week.”
However that pressure went away after the loss to Pittsburgh.
“That week, it was like the whole team came together, and all of a sudden they were not tense anymore. I do not know if it took the pressure off them or what, but they played like the year before and we know the rest of the story,” Vandervort said.
Reach Andrew Wigger at 803-276-0625 ext. 1867 or on Twitter @ TheNBOnews.