Gene Cathcart and Chris Liner have a bond beyond coaching.
All it took to notice that was a 2010 Greenwood Touchdown Club meeting the night area football coaches were to talk about their seasons.
Cathcart followed Liner in the program, and their rapport while exchanging spots at the podium could have doubled for an entertainment act.
They’re best friends. Have been, and possibly always will be.
They served as assistants, winning state titles under then-Greenwood coach Shell Dula. Then, after Liner took over the football team at Ninety Six and Cathcart the one at Greenwood, they hated playing each other – even in jamborees.
On the field, though, Cathcart and Liner have proven they know how to win.
Case in point: Liner won 43 games during six years with the Wildcats, and Cathcart 58 during five as the Eagles’ coach. That included the Greenwood program’s lone 15-0 season in 2012 in which it won the Class AAAA, Division II state crown in overtime.
Win as the two did, neither believed winning was the only thing.
Anytime Liner spoke of a player, he made sure to mention how good a student he was.
Often, Liner would say, “He is Ninety Six.”
Ninety Six, in Liner’s mind, transcended a football uniform.
It even transcended a school.
Liner often talked about how student-athletes should be role models for the town of Ninety Six as a whole.
The same could be said for Cathcart, who would often talk of feats his players accomplished off the football field.
Perhaps what drew players to Cathcart was willingness to stand behind them. Although Cathcart could be perceived as volatile at times on the sideline, he did it to argue for his players.
If the player knows a coach has his back, that player will give all he has in return.
Just think of the lyrics, “You mess with one man, you got us all…” from the Kenny Chesney song, “Boys of Fall.”
That song resonates during football for a reason.
Considering Cathcart’s team reached the state championship game in three of the past four years, it’s safe to say his players bought into that mentality.
Next season, though, they won’t be coaching in the Lakelands after developments this past week. Cathcart accepted an offer to become Seneca’s coach, and Liner took an offer to coach Laurens.
After taking the job, one of the first things they said to their players was they love them.
Although another job may appear more appealing to them, those kids were nonetheless special in their eyes.
Both Ninety Six and Greenwood have won state football championships before. Therefore, these two jobs will be a very popular place coaches send résumé’s.
That’s not saying the void left by Liner and Cathcart will easily be replaced.
They entertained us on and off the field.
And, they won while doing it.
What more could Lakelands football fans have asked for.
Thanks for the memories.
Chancey is sports editor at the Index-Journal. Contact him at 223-1813; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @IJSCOTTCHANCEY. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.