Clinton assistant Bennett hired to lead Ninety Six
By late Monday night, former Clinton co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Mathew Bennett had changed the job description on his busy Twitter page:
He was the new head football coach at Ninety Six High School, and it was Twitter official.
Greenwood School District District 52 announced Bennett’s hire Monday evening at its regular board of trustees meeting.
For Bennett, who spent the past four years on Corey Fountain’s staff at Clinton, getting his first head-coaching opportunity is the realization of a dream.
“In my first meeting with Coach Fountain, I told him I wanted to be a head coach, and I felt this was the job that could get me there, but it would have to be a special opportunity,” Bennett said. “That’s what I believe this is.
“Football should be a source of pride and bring a community together. That’s the way it should be, and Ninety Six checks all the boxes of what I was looking for in a head-coaching opportunity. There’s a deep-rooted sense of pride in that community. There are a lot of similarities in the football program there and the place it holds in its community and the place Clinton’s holds in this one.”
Bennett replaces Matthew Owings, a Ninety Six graduate who resigned in February after four seasons as head coach. The Wildcats were 16-23 during Owings’ tenure.
Chesnee assistant Ethan Ray on Twitter called it a “homerun hire” for Ninety Six.
“Coach Bennett did an awesome job for us, and I know he will be great at (Ninety Six),” Fountain Tweeted Monday afternoon.
While Ninety Six has struggled recently to find its football footing in Region 1-2A, which also includes powerhouse Abbeville, Clinton has flourished the past four years under Fountain. Led by a prolific double-wing rushing attack, the Red Devils have gone 24-3 over the past two seasons, winning the Region 4-3A title in 2022 after a runner-up finish in 2021 and making it to this past season’s Class 3A Upper State championship game.
“I can hold my head high and feel like we left Clinton in a better place than I found it,” Bennett said. “You’ll see a lot of Corey Fountain’s influence at Ninety Six.
He’s been a great mentor for me.”
Bennett said he informed the Red Devil players of his decision in a meeting Monday afternoon.
“The toughest part beyond the shadow of a doubt was telling the players, especially the offensive lineman,” said Bennett, whose coaching career began with wing-T guru Jet Turner at Woodmont.
He was set to meet with his new team Tuesday and said he had already received texts from several Wildcats, including starting quarterback Braden Mitchell.
Bennett said he wants to employ the same strategy in Ninety Six that Fountain used in rebuilding the Red Devil program – streamlining the feeder systems at the middle school and elementary levels in order to build the varsity program.
“In all of our conversations, we’ve talked about buying into the process of building the total program,” he said. “(Ninety Six officials) have bought into doing the things we’ve tried to do here at Clinton.”