In 37 years of coaching, Tom Knotts has coached some great football players.
The list includes Chris Leak, Brian Knuckles, Hakeem Nicks, Mohamed Massaquoi and Joe Cox from his time coaching in North Carolina. Since he has been at Dutch Fork, he has coached the likes of Lane Ecton, Jordan Berry, Chad Geter and Matt Colburn among others.
Those players have lofty credentials. Some who have gone on to play in college, win national titles and play in the NFL.
But according to Knotts, none of them were better than senior receiver/defensive back Bryce Thompson, who has played a big role in helping Dutch Fork to its fifth state title appearance in the past seven seasons.
The Silver Foxes play Dorman on Saturday for the Class 5A championship.
“He is the best I’ve coached in 37 years,” Knotts said. “Bryce can do anything. In addition to his abundance of talent, he has a determination that is unmatched by any player I have ever coached. Everybody says they want to win and got the will to win, Bryce is determined. He is the most determined player I ever coached. He is not going to be denied.”
Thompson’s talent has never been in question, but his temper and attitude were. The South Carolina target said he was a “hot head” and butted heads with Knotts as a freshman but has grown up in his second stint at Dutch Fork.
Thompson transferred back to Dutch Fork from to Ben Lippen, where he spent two years and helped the Falcons to the SCISA 3A championship last year.
Three months after that, Thompson was back at Dutch Fork, where playing against better competition was among other reasons for his return.
“Ben Lippen helped a lot. Coach Derrick White was a great coach and helped me become a better man,” Thompson said. “Coach Knotts had the foundation but sometimes he said it in a hard way to understand. I was very immature and wasn’t where he wanted me to be. I knew it, but I was too immature to fix it.
“But now, we are all good and I did everything he asked me to do to the best of my ability.”
Knotts didn’t give Thompson a long list of rules to follow except for one – do right or you have to face the consequences.
“We all are in kid business. We want them to grow up and become a good young man,” Knotts said. “I think he is making strides and we have had no issues. He is a good player and good leader.”
Thompson has done a bit of everything for the Silver Foxes this season, amassing 2,106 all-purpose yards and 36 touchdowns. He began the season as the team’s No. 1 receiver but that role changed when starting tailback went down with a foot injury.
Thompson moved in the No. 1 running back and had four TDs in one quarter in his first start at tailback against Westwood. He had at least 90 yards rushing and 23 total TDs in the final six regular season games.
Since Ron Hoff came back in the playoffs, Thompson has played receiver, running back and wildcat quarterback. He also logged a lot of minutes on defense and came up with a big interception last week against Fort Dorchester.
“I am student of the game and I am just obsessed with it,” Thompson said. “I try to perfect my craft at each position coach Knotts puts me at to play.”
Thompson is being recruited by South Carolina and other schools.
Class 5A: Dorman vs. Dutch Fork, noon Saturday, Williams-Brice Stadium
Class 4A: South Pointe vs. Hartsville, 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Williams-Brice Stadium
Class 3A: Chapman vs. Dillon, 3 p.m. Saturday, Williams-Brice Stadium
Class 2A: Abbeville vs. Bamberg-Ehrhardt, 5 p.m. Friday, Benedict College
Class A: Lamar vs. Baptist Hill, 8 p.m. Friday, Benedict College
Friday’s games will be streamed on www.nfhsnetwork.com (subscription required).
Saturday’s games will be will be streamed on www.nfhsnetwork.com and carried locally on WACH Fox 57.2 (TWC 1250) and across the state on WCIV 36.1 (MyTV Charleston) in Charleston, Asheville/Greenville on WMYA MyTV 40 and in Florence/Myrtle Beach on WWMB CW21.
Dutch Fork and Dorman’s game will air on 94.9 FM in Columbia online at www.espncolumbia.com