The athletes and coaches of Strom Thurmond High, Johnston High, Edgefield High, and W.E. Parker had many impressive athletes represent them on the field. The names of Boots Bandy, Hubert Morris, Jacky Jackson, Ben Anderson, Ira Hillary, and Walter Scott will forever live in the history books as inductees in the inaugural class of the Strom Thurmond High School Athletic Hall of Fame last year. The time has come to recognize the athletic achievements of the 2019 class of the Strom Thurmond Athletic Hall of Fame. Please welcome the following individuals:
George C. Blalock – W.E. Parker – (1960s-1990s)
“Undefeated and unscored on!” For three consecutive years, Coach George Blalock echoed those words when discussing his legendary football teams at W.E. Parker School. From his drive as a resilient coach in developing winning athletes, to his dedication in the classroom, Coach George Blalock left an indelible mark on Edgefield County and to all the lives he touched. Coach Blalock spent more than thirty years as a coach and educator in Edgefield County. In that time, he was credited with having a positive influence on thousands of students and athletes, including 2018 inductees Ira Hillary and Walter Scott. After excelling in three sports at John C. Smith University, Coach Blalock joined the United States Marine Corps. “Semper Fidelis”(Always Faithful) would forever be ingrained in how he lived his life and educated his students. In addition to his prowess as a football coach,Coach Blalock’s basketball teams won eight conference championships, and his track teams drew huge crowds and won seventeen consecutive Invitational Track Conference titles. W.E. Parker named their athletic field the George C. Blalock Athletic Field in his honor. Coach Blalock was also a prominent member of the community, receiving the ‘Citizen of the Year’ award from the Sigma Pi chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, ‘Man of the Year’ from Mt. Canaan Baptist Church, and served as the Grand Marshall of the annual Edgefield Jaycee Christmas Parade. Coach Blalock was best known for bringing the best out of the people he encountered and for building athletic opportunities for the youth of the community. Coach Blalock was married to Doris Dowdy and together they had four daughters, Lacy, Elizibeth, Celeste, and Ashley, as well as three grandsons. Coach Blalock passed away in 2000.
Michael (Monk) Coleman – Football – (1962-1965)
The name Monk Coleman lives in STHS lore as one of the best football players who ever wore a Rebels jersey. By the time Coleman was done playing high school football, he had earned all-state, all-Southern, and honorable mention All-America honors. Coach Bettis Herlong said, “I’d have to say offensively and defensively, he’s the best I’ve had in sixteen years.” He played in both the South Carolina Coaches Association North-South Football game and the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas. By the time he graduated in 1965, Coleman had 50 offers to play college football. It was not just the football field where he excelled. In addition to lettering four years in football, he also earned four basketball letters and ran relays and high jumped for the track team. Coleman played collegiately at Kilgore(TX) Junior College, Wichita State University, and the University of Tampa. Drafted by the Denver Broncos, Coleman also spent time with the New Orleans Saints before retiring and moving back to Edgefield County. Eventually, Coleman bought Mike Saye’s convenience store, renamed it Monk’s Corner and became a staple of Johnston, both as a business leader and a community leader for the next 30 years. “(Monk) truly made this a more enjoyable place to live and work”, said Dr. Randy Bryan. In 1979, Coleman married Marion Poston, and together they had two sons, Michael Franklin, Jr., and Thomas Marion. Coleman passed away in 2014.
Robert G. Edwards – Basketball – (1970-1974)
Strom Thurmond High School might best be known for its football prowess, but it
has also produced outstanding athletes in other sports. Perhaps the best example of this is Robert Edwards. While Edwards lettered and excelled in three sports for the Rebels, his star shone the brightest on the basketball court. In his three years as a varsity player, Edwards was selected to multiple All Tournament teams, was named to the All Conference team twice, was named as a first team All State player, was named to the CSRA All Star team, and the North-South All Star game. Said his coach, Phil Musgrave, “Robert’s one of the best shooters I’ve ever seen. He’s especially tough when the game is on the line.” After fielding over thirty scholarship offers, Edwards continued his basketball career at Newberry College. At Newberry, Edwards was a four year starter, starting 140 games over his career. During his time at Newberry, Edwards was team captain for two years, was named twice to the Lutheran College All American Team, and was selected twice to the South Carolina All State Team. In his senior year, Edwards was awarded the W.L. Laval Outstanding Athlete Award. Larry DiBiase, Edwards’s coach at Newberry said that Edwards “commanded respect from his teammates, not only for the player he was, but for the person he was.” Edwards has had his jersey retired by Newberry College, and in 1986 was inducted into the Newberry College Athletic Hall of Fame. Edwards has served SCANA in a variety of executive roles, served on many civic boards, and has remained active, winning several golf club championships and running in two marathons, including the New York City Marathon. Edwards is married to the former Jennifer Call. Together they have two children, Gavin and Alison, and five grandchildren.
Keith McAlister – Football – (1978-1986)
Strom Thurmond High School lives by the credo Pride, Class, Courage, and the Will to Win. The man who started this tradition was Keith McAlister. In his nine years as leading the football program, McAlister’s teams won seven region championships, two Upper State championships and one Lower State Championship. He finished his career at STHS with a 91-20 record, including forty-three consecutive regular season wins. Coach McAlister served as a role model to his players, giving them valuable lessons that extended beyond the playing field. 2018 Hall of Fame Inductee Ira Hillary said, “Coach Mac used to tell me if I fought hard and broke free, there would be nothing but green grass and glory in front of me. That has held true on and off the field.” Former Edgefield County Schools Superintendent Robert Maddox has this to say about the influence Coach McAlister has had, “Coach McAlister’s legacy is not confined to those he touched personally but also the extended group of individuals that have been positively impacted through the passing on of (his) principles from one generation of coaches to the next.” Upon leaving the sidelines, Coach McAlister continued his career in education as both a school and district administrator. Coach McAlister and his wife Vickie live in Ridgeway. They have three children, Ashley, Kip, and Ryan as well as five grandchildren.
Calvin “Dusty” Triplett – Baseball & Football – (1978-1986, 2000-2003)
Dusty Triplett was a friend and mentor to many coaches at Strom Thurmond High School, past and present. Coach T was a man who could give you some of the best advice you would ever get in your life and make you laugh harder than you ever had in your life. Coach T was also one of the best coaches who has ever paced the sidelines at Strom Thurmond High School. The originator of the Blue Steel defense, Coach Triplett used data and computers well before it became common-place to craft some of the most feared defenses in high school football. Along with fellow inductee Keith McAlister, Coach T was a part of seven region championships and 3 State Runners Up. Upon his return to STHS, Coach Triplett laid the foundation for the success enjoyed by the Rebels in the 2000’s. Fellow inductee Lee Sawyer said about Coach Triplett and changing the culture, “It wasn’t easy, but he did it. I would never had enjoyed the success I had if not for Coach T.” Coach Triplett also won the only State Championship earned by the Rebel baseball program in 1982. Going into the playoffs that year as an at-large team, the Rebels fought their way to the State Championship round against Marion, winning the series in three games. Upon his retirement from STHS, Coach Triplett continued to teach in the Adult Education program. “Dusty Triplett was a math genius with the unique ability to teach math to the most apprehensive student,” said Vickie Butler, Director of the Edgefield-McCormick County Adult Education and Family Literacy program. Coach Triplett’s son, Russell, the head baseball coach at Newberry College, said of his father, “He was a man who valued hard work and personal achievement. His dedication to professional success was impressive, but it was his work ethic that made him an influential role model and leader.” Coach Triplett and his wife Debbie have three children, Russell, Jenny, and Casey, as well as 6 grandchildren. Coach Triplett passed away in late June of this year.
Lee Sawyer – Football – (1986, 2000-2013)
Coach Lee Sawyer took over a football program with a proud tradition, but that had fallen into a state of mediocrity. Building on the foundation laid by fellow inductee Dusty Triplett, Coach Sawyer awakened a giant that became one of the most respected and feared football programs in the state of South Carolina. In his ten years as head coach, the Sawyer-led Rebels won a total of 107 games, 22 playoff games, 9 region championships and a state title in 2005. Coach Sawyer won numerous Coach of the Year honors and led the Rebels to two undefeated regular season, in 2008 and 2011. He finished his career as the winningest coach in STHS history. Prior to his tenure at Strom Thurmond, Coach Sawyer was a member of Robert Maddox’s staff at Swansea that won three consecutive State Championships in the early 1990s, took his first head coaching job at his alma mater, Saluda High School, and was the Defensive Coordinator for Greenwood High School’s 1999 State Championship team. Beyond his accomplishments as a coach, Sawyer was a positive influence on his players, encouraging them to live the ideals of Pride, Class, Courage, and the Will to Win both on and off the field. As former Rebel quarterback Aramis Hillary put it, “Without Coach Sawyer’s tenure, our town would have lost not only games, but young men who have flourished into leaders of our community.” Former STHS assistant Chad Leaphart echoed these sentiments. “Coach (Sawyer) had great teams but he also had a tremendous positive impact on young people.” Coach Sawyer gave fiery pregame speeches that had to be experienced to be appreciated. Lieutenant Tra’ves Bush of the United States Navy, who played collegiately at the United States Naval Academy, said of Sawyer’s pregame missives, “I’ve never been more motivated by any person in 28 years than I have from hearing a pre-game speech from (Coach Sawyer).” To summarize Lee Sawyer and his impact on Strom Thurmond High School, former player Chet Phillips said, “Coach Sawyer is a man of integrity and grit who demanded the best from his players because he saw the best in his players. Men like Coach Sawyer are the reason Hall of Fames exist.” Coach Sawyer lives in Johnston and has a daughter, Kristen.
The 2019 class of the Strom Thurmond Athletic Hall of Fame will be inducted at halftime of the Strom Thurmond game against South Aiken on September 6. Kickoff for the game is set for 7:30 pm.