St. James has been reduced to the role of spoiler this week.
The Sharks, 2-7 overall and 0-4 in Region VII-AAA games, have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. A win against Lake City would eliminate the Panthers from postseason consideration, as well.
That doesn’t change the team’s approach.
“We’re going to treat it like any other week,” said interim coach Robby Brown. “I’m going to be just as wired with us being 2-7 going into the last game as I was going into the first game.”
But that type of attitude is why Brown was handed the keys to the program after an unusual coaching search ended in March with all three original finalists withdrawing. And it’s why, if all goes smoothly with school officials and Horry County Schools, Brown will be on the St. James sidelines next season without the extra word in his title.
Both Brown and Athletics Director Paula Lee said earlier this week that their goal was for him to be named the full-time head coach soon. There will be some steps to follow, much like Loris did after the 2011 season with then-interim coach Jamie Snider.
The progress the football team has made, Lee added, likely makes it the right move here, too.
“You can reflect on the Myrtle Beach game,” Lee said. “We were down 31 points and quitting was never in the equation. There are a lot of people who have a lot of praise. It’s one, two, three plays. I feel like he is leading us in the right direction.”
A year ago under Mark Fischer, the Sharks lost their five region games by an average of 20 points. The last three came by at least three touchdowns, and St. James was clearly overmatched.
That hasn’t been the case this season. Outside of a blowout to Carolina Forest in Week 2 and a 20-point defeat against one of the state’s top teams in Loris to open the season, the rest of the team’s losses have been significantly more respectable.
The Sharks lost to rival Socastee by three points before an eight-point loss to Georgetown, a three-point loss to Wilson and that seven-point loss to Myrtle Beach in the first three games of Region VII-AAA schedule.
And until North Myrtle Beach scored two late touchdowns to win last Friday, St. James was in the middle of another close one.
Regardless of Thursday’s final score against Lake City, Brown said he will take “a little break” before meeting with Lee and Principal Vann Pennell. He said he hasn’t asked about the process to become the full-time head coach, but that it’s something he definitely wants.
“A little continuity, a little consistency would be good,” said Brown, who was already a science teacher at the school despite sitting out the 2013 football season. “It’s hard on them. It’s tough. But the kids have bought in. Eventually it’s going to flip.”