Change was coming for Shane Fidler this year in one way or another.
Well before receiving the phone call he would be named the new Waccamaw High football coach, Fidler was already making preparations for another life-altering experience — marriage.
It did not take long for those two worlds to collide.
“It was funny, because (me and my wife) were touring (Rome) and all of a sudden I receive a call from a college coach wanting to come to the school,” Fidler said. “All I could say was, ‘That may be a little tough to do, because I’m about to take a tour of the Vatican.’”
Pawleys Island is half the world away from Vatican City. But during that time, Fidler learned his mission — albeit on the gridiron — isn’t much different than the pope’s.
“I want to turn doubters into believers,” he said. “I want Waccamaw to be a place that teams hate to come play, a place that earns television games with the best of them.
“It all begins with culture change. It may not come the first week or the 10th, season one or season five, but eventually it will come.”
While daunting, the challenge of playing in Region 6-3A is what appealed most to Fidler. “Those are the guys you want to measure yourself up against,” he said.
One thing the Warriors failed to do much of last season against league foes is measure up, finishing without a win in Region 6-3A play and a lone victory over St. James to their credit during the 2016 campaign. According to their new head man, lack of belief may have played a role.
“I don’t think they believed they are as good as they can be,” Fidler said. “We’re at passing leagues and big man challenges, and we’re competing with teams traditionally strong in those areas.
“This summer has been real good in showing them, ‘Hey, I know I can do this.’ It was all about building faith within them that hopefully they can take to the football field.”
I want to turn doubters into believers. I want Waccamaw to be a place that teams hate to come play, a place that earns television games with the best of them. It all begins with culture change. It may not come the first week or the 10th, season one or season five, but eventually it will come.
Waccamaw football coach Shane Fidler
Currently, the Waccamaw quarterback position is up for grabs. Brandon Stecz returns and has a leg up in the competition, but Fidler said a few other talents are being given opportunities to lobby for the job.
Wide receivers Tyree Funnye and James Alston combined for 18 catches for 184 yards and a touchdown a season ago. Expect the duo to be targeted a tad more in the passing game this season after both showed explosive capability during summer passing leagues.
“(Funnye) had a really good summer, and early on in fall camp has done performed well,” Fidler said. “Alston should also add an element to the passing game.”
Waccamaw will have to find a replacement for its work horse in the running game a season ago, Antrix Greene. Whoever is given the task of toting the rock for the Warriors will have the help of an improving offensive line.
Trey Davis will anchor the unit, while Josh Ellis and Liam Sullivan will join him in the trenches. Several others are competing during summer drills to see whose number will be called to fill remaining spots along the line.
“As for Trey, a lot of people around here are saying he is starting to figure things out like (his brother Tyler, an offensive lineman at The Citadel) did,” Fidler said. “Ellis was a fringe player last year, but had a whale of a summer for us. Not only is he physically a leader, but his leadership has been big for our kids.
“I preach it everyday, that we take care of our offensive linemen. They won’t have to clean up the locker room, they’ll be first to eat … all the perks. It takes a special young man to play offensive line, and we’re treating them exactly like that.”
Many of those same players will also be featured as part of the Waccamaw defensive front.
Linebacker Hunter Lane — a lacrosse standout for the Warriors — will serve as the centerpiece of a defensive unit hoping to put a dent in the 34 points per game it allowed last season. Joining him in the Waccamaw linebacker corps is Walker Parler.
Much like he will be asked to make tough catches when his team has the ball, Alston is being asked to blanket opposing receivers as a key piece in the Warriors secondary.
Coach: Shane Fidler (first year)
2016 record: 1-9, 0-5 Region 6-3A
Key players: Hunter Lane (Sr., TE/LB), Trey Davis (Jr., OL/DL), James Alston (Jr., WR/DB), Tyree Funnye (So., WR/DB), Ryon Fox (So., RB/LB)
The word: Hoping to spend more time with family, longtime coach Tyronne Davis stepped aside, allowing Shane Fidler to take over the football program. Much work is to be done, though, the Warriors winning only one game last season. Tight end Hunter Lane is a solid blocker and a reliable pass catcher, when not hunting down opposing ball carriers. Trey Davis will again serve as a key cog along the offensive line. Much work is left to revamp a defense that yielded 40 points or more in five games last season.