The St. James baseball team won the 2011 state championship. The school’s softball team did the same in 2007.
The boys golf has been a state-runner up three times, while the girls golf team finished third in the state this past fall. On Thursday, the Sharks wrestling team is scheduled to face Socastee in the Class AAA Lower State finals. Several St. James wrestlers have already won individual titles in the past.
But when it comes to football, the school has yet to have the type of success shared by nearly every other sport.
The Sharks are 24-78 in 10 years, something that will likely play a role in how the school approaches its search for its next coach.
“We’re going to do a thorough search. This isn’t going to be a knee-jerk reaction,” Athletics Director Paula Lee said. “It is our job to get [the players] to trust me. If they have any insight or questions, our door was always open.”
Mark Fischer resigned his position on Tuesday after three seasons. He was re-introduced as the head coach at Louisa County (Va.) Wednesday morning. In the seven years before coming to St. James, Fischer was 61-27 at Louisa County, and he led the Lions to the 2006 Virginia state title game. And even though he was able to make some strides at St. James, the wins never came at the clip he would have hoped.
The team won three games each year in his first two seasons before a 2-8 finish in 2013. He said it was enough for him to apologize to Principal Vann Pennell when the two met.
“I told Mr. Pennell, I felt as though I let him down and I let the kids down,” Fischer said. “I tried as hard as I could. I didn’t deliver the goods.”
That lack of victories, though, isn’t all on Fischer’s shoulders. The team was 16-56 in its first seven years under Billy Hurston. It did make the playoffs twice under the previous coach. An amended set of Class AAA postseason rules prevented a third trip during Fischer’s tenure.
In the coming week, Fischer’s resignation paperwork will be submitted to Horry County Schools and his teaching and coaching position will be posted. The next coach – whom Lee hopes to have in place before the start of spring football – is going to be charged with doing something neither of his predecessors did – produce a winning season.
“I think it takes longer,” Lee said. “Not that it’s a more complex sport. But to get the numbers out there and get the kids to buy into it, it’s been more of a challenge.
“You have travel baseball. With football, you have rec football and then dive into the school and the program. I think we’re on the cusp of it, because of the success we’ve had all the way around. I was at Socastee for 17 years. Until recently, they didn’t have winning football.”
Much like Socastee – which will jump to Region VI-AAAA in the fall – the Sharks are on a path toward the state’s largest class. Recent enrollment figures released by the South Carolina High School League have St. James as the 51st largest high school in the state. So by the time the next realignment is done for the 2016-2018 seasons, most believe St. James will be a Class AAAA program.
So far on the football field, the same move has hamstrung Carolina Forest, the last local team to complete the transition. The reclassification’s effects on Socastee remain to be seen. However, both of those programs moved up after winning seasons. That’s something St. James has yet to experience.
The team has improved in the weight room, and players are starting to get more opportunities to play in college. Defensive back Tyrell Dukes signed a preferred walk-on agreement with Charleston Southern and quarterback Josh Roper signed with Pikeville last week.
“My challenge to them was to keep it going,” Lee said. “No matter who took over the reins, they had to keep it going.”
Contact IAN GUERIN at firstname.lastname@example.org.