With an undefeated season and now three playoff wins, the culture shift in White Knoll’s football program can’t be overstated.
White Knoll head coach Nick Pelham was specific in pointing to the turning point that sent his team to the 5A Lower State final Friday, Nov. 17.
“That series right before the half for our offense was enormous,” he said of how his team pushed past Sumter to continue its march through the state playoffs. “It was only 7-0 at that point, so there was a little bit of pressure on us and [quarterback Landon Sharpe] had great protection up front and was able to scramble when he had to make a play.”
That scoring drive ended with White Knoll up 14-0 after Sharpe’s 10-yard bolt into the end zone as a passing play opened up the middle of the field for him to tuck and run. They got there with some no-huddle play calling and short sideline passes that drove the offense down the field in less than a minute.
The Timberwolves went on to grab firm control of the third-round contest in the second half, beating the Gamecocks 35-7.
“I always ask the team to stay in it, keep fighting, and on that series, they did,” Pelham said of the sequence that put his team up two scores.
With an undefeated season and now three playoff wins, the culture shift in White Knoll’s football program can’t be overstated. Historically a mostly mid-level school, it now has a real shot at making the state championship game. The enthusiasm and energy is contagious, and as the game kicked off on Friday night in the stadium they’ve re-named “The Bank,” Coach Pelham could be seen in his trademark shorts and a short sleeve shirt, bouncing up and down with a fist in the air, encouraging his entire sideline to do the same with their helmets raised.
“I don’t know if it’s me,” Pelham said, “But if you look at us all as a group, without a doubt.”
It’s about the culture and the attitude, he added.
“The kids are proud to be here, that wasn’t always the case, and I’m really proud that our kids have taken ownership of being from ‘The Bank.’ We put it on the field this season,” the coach said, referring to the giant “The Bank” graphic at midfield.
“We use it as a term of endearment. We’re proud of how tough we are and how we have to really grind and work.”
Pelham was also quick to credit his staff for the turnaround.
“We have a great set of assistant coaches, they take ownership of their group and they coach them hard, and build relationships with our kids,” he said, “They are really responsible for bringing that energy.”
The Timberwolves will need all of that energy and more next week as they take on the Summerville Green Wave, which defeated Carolina Forest to advance to the Lower State final
Both teams are undefeated on the season and will clash at “The Bank” Friday, Nov. 24.
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