Last season was a difficult year for Demetrius Davis and the Fairfield Central football program.
The Griffins went 2-9 in 2018, Davis’ first losing in seven years since taking over the program. Fairfield Central lost just nine games in the three previous seasons combined.
In May, rising senior C.J. Simmons and 10-year-old cousin Jermila died after injuries in an ATV accident. Simmons is the fourth Fairfield Central student to die since 2017 and second football player. Mykel Beaufort died in a car accident in 2017. Both Beaufort and Simmons would have been seniors this year.
Simmons was a two-sport standout and played both offense and defense for the Griffins. He was getting college interest in football and baseball.
“He was different, very charismatic and just a great kid. The kind you wanted everybody to kind of be like CJ,” Davis said. “His mom and dad did an unbelievable job of raising a good young man.”
Now, Davis and the Griffins hope to honor their late teammate with a season to remember, and they will have digs to do it. Nearly $3.2 million spent in renovations have been made to E.K. McLendon Stadium, complete with a turf field, a large new scoreboard and a new field house in the north end zone.
The field house opened in the fall and the turf was installed late this spring. The Griffins have been using it all summer for their workouts.
“Kids are resilient. I think you mix the new facility with the emotions of what happened to CJ. I think it rejuvenated all of us,” Davis said. “We got something exciting this year that we could dedicate to him.”
All of the team’s helmets will have stickers of Simmons’ No. 6 on them, and no player will wear that jersey number this season.
Simmons has a spot in the new locker room, with his No. 6 black jersey at the top, a white jersey hanging on the right side and a Nike shoe box placed on a shelf below.
The Griffins’ new locker room is a big upgrade. Each locker has a wooden seat with places to hang practice gear or anything on the side. At the top of each locker is a placard with each player’s name and place to put their jersey and shoulder pads.
A training room is located next to the locker room complete with two training tables, two cold tubs, exercise bikes and treadmills. The weight room is filled Sorinex equipment, the same kind used by South Carolina in its new facility.
Both the training room and weight room are to be used by Fairfield students and not just football players.
“Amazing. Couldn’t believe it,” Fairfield quarterback Stephon Gadsen. “It gives us something to play for. They did this for us so we gotta make up for it.”
Davis said the upgrades and field house helped energized he and the team during the tough offseason. Fans will get a first look at the new turf Aug. 12 as the school hosts a jamboree for the first time in several years.
Fairfield Central plays Ridge View in the final game of the night. The other matchups are Irmo vs. Lancaster and Richard Winn vs. PAC. The first game begins at 6 p.m.
“It adds some excitement to the kids and coaches. It makes you look forward every day that you are going to work at a top-notch facility,” Davis said. “The weight room is impressive. My superintendent, principal and athletic director wanted to do something first class for these kids. They went above and beyond. It is exciting for everyone in the county.”
Fairfield Central 2019 football schedule
All games at 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 23 vs. Johns Creek (Ga.)
Aug. 30 vs. Lancaster
Sept. 6 at Blythewood
Sept. 13 vs. Calhoun County
Sept. 20 vs. Newberry
Sept. 27 vs. Westwood
Oct. 4 at Keenan
Oct. 11 vs. Camden
Oct. 25 at Chester
Nov. 1 vs. Indian Land