Demetrius Davis knows what it’s like to quarterback at Fairfield Central. Eighteen years ago, Davis was the starting quarterback on Buddy Pough’s first team in Winnsboro — the one that laid the foundation for the Griffins’ last state title in 1997.
Today, those two still have a special relationship. Davis got his first coaching break as a graduate assistant with South Carolina when Pough was the running backs coach for the Gamecocks under Lou Holtz. Pough brought Davis with him to coach on the offensive side of the ball when he was named head coach at South Carolina State in 2002.
Two years ago when the Fairfield Central job became available, the two talked at length abouth whether this would be a good move for Davis. Davis was a little apprehensive but Pough had little doubt that, after their more than a decade together, Davis was ready to take his first head coaching job.
“When the Fairfield job came open, I wanted what was best for the school, community and Demetrius and I knew this would be a good fit,” Pough said. “It was a quality guy running a quality program and it was only a matter of time before they found some success.”
Davis leaned on the advice Pough gave him.
“Coach Pough is my mentor,” he said. “It was an opportunity to come back home. Before I took the job, I talked to Coach first because I was leaving his staff after 10 years. Secondly, it was an opportunity for me to be a head coach and he supported me from day one. He told me to go. He enjoyed his time in Winnsboro and thought it would be a good move for me.”
The move has turned out better than some expected. Despite playing in a couple of Upper and Lower State finals, the Griffins have not made a return to the state championship since Pough left town. That changes today when Fairfield Central (11-2) plays Dillon (12-1) in the Class 2A Division I state championship at 5:30 p.m. at Benedict College.
“You can tell the people around town are excited to be back in the championship,” Davis said.
The two have talked almost every day this week. It started after the Griffins defeated Newberry last Friday and has continued with text messages and talks throughout the week.
“I sent him a text on Sunday to try and help me put together a schedule for this week as far as getting kids out of school and what I needed to expect as a coach this week,” Davis said. “He’s been very supportive in that way.”
Davis believes all the prep he’s had being around Pough has made him into the coach he is today. He hopes his relationship with his starting quarterback, DeAndre Belton, will blossom just the same. The junior is starting for the first time on the varsity level and owes a lot of his accomplishments to Davis. He has passed for more than 1,400 yards and ran for another 1,100 this season.
“Coach Davis has really helped me,” Belton said. “I don’t know where I would be without him. At the beginning of the year, it was kind of crazy. It was a big jump to the high school level. Coach wanted everything done perfectly and that helped me become more confident and a better leader. I’ve grown as a player and a person just being around him.”
The Griffins carry a nine-game winning streak into today and are not satisfied with reaching the finals. They came in with a business-like attitude on Saturday to start preparing to face Dillon. Belton has tried to treat this week the same as a normal game week and stay in the routine that has gotten them this far.
Davis has sensed the urgency in his team but has liked the approach he’s witnessed.
“They came in Saturday morning and watched film,” Davis said. “They are happy but they understand the Upper State championship was not the goal going into the season, it was to win a state championship. We realize we still have some work to get done.”