Nate Thompson understands he’s in the waning moments of his football coaching career.
Such knowledge may be the reason he’s savored each aspect of this past week.
The longtime Carvers Bay head man will serve as the South team head coach for Saturday’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives North-South Bowl.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to be here,” Thompson said. “I mean, to be voted by your peers to coach a game like this … you realize ‘Dang, I’m the head coach.’ ”
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Thompson is the only football coach in the history of Carvers Bay High School, serving since it first opened for the 2000-01 school term.
In his 18 seasons on the job, the Bears have been quite the model of consistency. Half of his teams won 10 games or more, and five of them made it to Columbia for state title games.
On two occasions, Carvers Bay left with a championship (2002, 2006).
“I look at him sort of like (New England football coach) Bill Belicheck … all he does is win,” said Carvers Bay defensive lineman and North-South all-star Emmanuel Tatum. “In the past two years, we won 20 games and went deep in the playoffs both years. His record kind of speaks for itself.”
As notable has been the brand of football for which Thompson’s teams have become known.
“They are a physical, physical ballclub,” said North Myrtle Beach football coach Matt Reel prior to his team’s meeting with Carvers Bay earlier this season. “It’s not as if they do anything exotic or complicated, but we learned quick (in the teams’ 2016 matchup) these guys can be mighty disruptive.”
If you ask anyone in the Bears’ camp, they’ll tell you it all starts with Thompson and his ability to put his wrestling background to good use.
Though at best a shade above 5 feet tall, his presence loomed large on the practice field as he worked to help South team linemen with their technique.
“It’s funny, because they’re so much bigger than me,” Thompson said. “But on top of that, I’m not only the small one … but I’m the old one.
“They see me walk in and think ‘What does this little guy know?’ And then we get live, and they’re like ‘Oh, (Thompson) knows a little something here.’ ”
Amongst the hustle and bustle in preparation for Saturday’s game, the Carvers Bay coach is often confronted with the fact it could be his swan song.
According to Thompson, his contract with the Georgetown County School District has already expired. Yet, he has emphasized the desire to coach another season.
“Hopefully this isn’t it. I’d so love to come back,” he said. “You hear things about how many have applied and how many want the job, and I’m thinking ‘I’m not gone yet!’
“It is a joy to coach young men and bring out the best in them. Everyone has a purpose, and I tend to think this is part of my life’s work.”
Carvers Bay standout and North-South all-star DiJon Goss said this year’s group set a high bar for itself, hoping to allow Thompson to go out on top.
Though one goal slipped through their fingers, he and Tatum believe this week somewhat softens the blow.
“ ‘Coach T’ represented a lot of stuff, particularly the fact he loves us equally and holds all of us to a high standard,” Goss said. “I just love him so much. … Coming here, with him being my head coach to finish my career, it’s awesome.
“Seeing ‘Coach T’ here, it makes me feel so much more comfortable. And you see a lot of the other guys starting to buy in too.”