Dutch Fork officially opened the 2014 football season with an early Friday practice on the turf field at its campus stadium, but the Silver Foxes’ focus on the new campaign started as they were leaving Williams-Brice Stadium this past December as the loser of the Class 4A Division I championship game.
“We definitely know the feeling of what it’s like to get (to the championship game) and come up short,” said senior quarterback Derek Olenchuk.
“It’s been haunting us all along. This year, it’s time to seal the deal, and that’s what we’ve been working towards. We’ve been building for years toward winning a state championship, and we don’t want to come up empty again.”
The loss to Gaffney was on the minds of Dutch Fork assistant coaches who tapped into the bitter memories of the returning players as motivational ploys at various times during the morning session.
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The Tom Knotts Era at Dutch Fork enters its fourth year. The Silver Foxes have posted three consecutive double-digit win seasons and three consecutive perfect runs to region titles but no state championships.
“I told the principal who hired me that we had to win a state championship by the fourth year,” said Knotts, who became a legend in North Carolina with seven state titles and 296 wins in 23 seasons before accepting the challenge at Dutch Fork in 2010.
“I came here to win championships. That’s what I was hired to do, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Knotts has no problem talking about last season’s experience, nor does he forbid his players from reliving the pain.
“We’re definitely talking about it and the big picture, and I’m sure some coaches would choose not to,” he said. “But I think we’re laying a foundation for not just this year but for what we want for years to come. There is definitely an upper echelon of high school teams in South Carolina, and we want to join that. The only way to get there is to beat teams like Byrnes and Gaffney.”
The Silver Foxes have been a potent offensive team under Knotts, and with Olenchuk, a three-year starter who had 3,501 passing yards last season, and fleet running back Matt Colburn (1,444 yards rushing, 24 touchdowns), Dutch Fork figures to be an offensive juggernaut again.
Olenchuk was sharp in the passing drills that dominated the first day of practice.
“Derek has worked to get bigger and stronger and is getting close to having a total grasp of what we’re doing offensively,” Knotts said. “He’s come a long way and become a good high school quarterback.”