Imagine in your mind a small-town with a population of just over two-thousand souls nestled in the boondocks of South Carolina. Now tell me, what did you imagine? Did you think of a town as equally conservative in population as it is in politics; a town so small that everyone knows each other on a first-name basis? Or did you think of a town whose weekend consists of going to see the local high school football team play on Friday night, going to a cook-out all of Saturday, and cheering for the Lord and the Carolina Panthers on Sunday? Perhaps this town is one whose economy fluctuates based on one variable alone; whether or not it is hunting season.
This theoretical stronghold of southern soul exists; its name is Clover. And all of your aforementioned stereotypes are correct, save for the one about the economy; fishing gear and Grizzly account for a large chunk of Clover's cash flow too. But if there's one thing that the people of Clover love the most, it is gathering around to watch their Clover High School Blue Eagles go to battle every Friday night.
Rewind approximately five years ago and that is where our story begins. The final seconds were ticking away on the clock of South Carolina's 4A football state championship and the Clover Blue Eagles were putting the finishing touches on their 24-13 victory over the Beaufort Eagles with nearly all of Clover cheering them on. The town was ecstatic, the team was bombarded by congratulations and compliments by rabid fans, and this small, country town was united in pride of their modest high school in the boondocks. At this time not a single person would have expected the drama that would unfold over the course of the next five years.
Our story actually begins with a young man by the name of Jevon Blake who stood witness to the Blue Eagles’ success from afar. Now when Jevon was just in the seventh-grade the Clover Blue Eagles won their first state championship. The very next year the Blue Eagles suffered a heart-breaking loss in the second round of the play-offs. Needless to say, expectations were high for any upcoming freshmen who hoped to carry on the tradition of excellence. Not to be outshined by the greatness of his predecessors, Jevon was determined to continue the success that Clover High School had become accustomed to over the last few years. For the most part Jevon was successful in achieving his goal as Clover High School reached the playoffs his freshman and sophomore year. But things were about to change, come his junior and senior year.
In the midst of Jevon’s junior season drama erupted. Coaching changes along with a well-publicized hazing incident created a sense of disdain towards the Blue Eagles. This effect became even greater the next year with key seniors graduating and two of Clover’s best players transferring to a rival school. Players were quitting the team, students stopped showing up to games, and the “Blue Eagle pride” was becoming harder and harder to find. Combine this with a 0-10 record this last season and you have a school who simply doesn’t care about football, well except for Jevon and the multiple other seniors who stuck with the Blue Eagles despite their slump.
But the wonderful thing about Jevon and the seniors of Clover High School’s football team is that they stood for something greater than the game of football itself. They refused to give up on the team even when everyone else seemingly had. They didn’t care about winning or losing, they wanted to go out every Friday night and put up the biggest fight they could to prove that the heart of Clover, was indeed, still beating. They served as a form of light in the otherwise dismal darkness of defeat. They could have given up on the team when everyone else did, but they didn’t. They kept on fighting even after the game clock read “0:00”.
You see what Jevon wanted to accomplish by the time his career at Clover High School was up was to serve as a role model, not just to those on the football field, but to those in the bleachers as well. Boy did he ever succeed in doing that. Jevon proved that it takes more than winning to be a good leader. He proved that a good leader is marked by one who doesn’t give up when the adversity gets hard, but works harder to prove that he can take it and keep moving forward. He fought till the very bitter end for Clover High School, and for that he is a hero in my (and most of Clover’s) eyes.