High school football

New challenge in Lexington Co. excites Bennett

Former Coastal Carolina coach knows about building programs

ainelson@thestate.comJanuary 16, 2013 

Coach David Bennett had no intention of leaving Socastee High.

But when presented with the opportunity to establish the new football program at Lexington District 1’s River Bluff High, which opens this fall, Bennett knew it was time to move on.

“As you step back and watch this thing develop, there is no doubt that this is God’s plan for us,” he said.

The Board of Trustees of Lexington School District 1 approved Bennett’s hire at its December meeting.

Bennett joined Socastee’s staff as athletics director and guidance counselor in 2012 after starting Coastal Carolina’s football program in 2002 and being named Big South Coach of the Year in 2004 and 2010. He felt particularly prepared for this new assignment.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Bennett said, “and we get to do it again.”

“This is God’s plan because River Bluff High is going into the 21st century and we’ve been exposed to some ideas at the college level and then went back to high school level to get that experience as athletics director, and now we’ve got a chance to bring some ideas to the table and put it all together.”

A Greer native and Cheraw High alumnus, Bennett holds degrees from Presbyterian and Clemson, and began his football coaching career at Goose Creek. He owns an overall coaching record of 126-56.

Though some expected Bennett’s next move to be a return to the college ranks, the coach said, with the state-of-the-art facilities at River Bluff, “this job may be better than some college jobs.”

More important, he said, being a high school athletics director affords him the chance to affect many young lives, which has become increasingly important to him through his time at Socastee.

Bennett will put together his staff throughout the spring, but for now, that task is confined to the evening hours. His days are spent honoring his commitment to Socastee, where he is organizing fundraisers and arranging athletics schedules.

“In Horry County, we put down roots and we put them real deep. Your neighbors are like family, our community here, our church and our preacher. When you move to a place like this, you don’t expect to ever leave,” said Bennett. He and wife Melanie have a son, Jeb, who will be a junior at River Bluff. Daughter, Hayes, is a cheerleader at Clemson.

As for the future Gators football players, Bennett’s first rosters will be culled from the ranks of players reassigned from Lexington High and those moving into the newly drawn attendance area around Red Bank. River Bluff will begin as a Class 3A program, but is expected to move to Class 4A within two seasons, becoming Lexington’s competitor.

Already, Bennett has discussed that with Lexington coach Scott Earley, with whom he formed a friendship during his time at Coastal Carolina.

“When I was at Myrtle Beach trying to establish my program, every Friday night after the games there would be a call from coach Bennett,” Earley said. “David had a lot of good advice for me when he was at Coastal and, without saying too much, I’ve tried to return the favor. David will do a great job over there at River Bluff.”

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