It’s all there in black and white.
Charlie Washington, the head coach tasked with reviving Thornwell’s varsity football program, took photos of the pages of past annuals from Thornwell Charter School’s predecessor, Thornwell High School, and posted them on his Twitter feed.
He was doing his homework.
“How can I bring something back to life, but not know where it’s been(?)” Washington Tweeted. “Thornwell has stood at the top once before….. We working to get back there now.”
Thornwell High School closed in 2006 and played its last football season in 2005 when the Saints went 0-10.
But Thornwell was reborn as a charter school in 2019 with elementary and middle school classes and now has its first junior class and, not coincidentally, its first varsity teams.
The Saints are to play an eight-game schedule in 2023 under Washington, who spent the 2022 season as an assistant at J.L. Mann and was hired as the first Thornwell Charter School head coach in June. He was also a high school assistant in Florida and the owner and head coach of the Florida Red Wolves of the Rivals Professional Football League and was owner-head coach of the semi-pro Flagler Knights.
Since arriving at Thornwell, he has been fast-tracking Saints football, sprinting to Greenville and back Monday afternoon to pick up practice equipment, returning in time for practice.
Summer has included 7-on-7 competitions and a lot of fast-paced assimilation by the 20-some-odd players on the Saints roster, which includes two of Washington’s sons – Kaevon and Elijah.
“We’ve got to work on a little bit of kinks but we’re starting to come together,” said Kaevon Washington, who transferred from Mann to play for his father.
Working out the kinks will be a big part of August for the Saints, who have a scrimmage and jamboree before a two-week break prior to the beginning of the season on Sept. 1.
“We’re learning and finding out how we can simplify the system, so that way they’re able to play fast and play strong and have grow confidence going into their first game,” Coach Washington said.
The Saints are set to host West-Oak and Whitmire in a three-way scrimmage Tuesday (Aug. 8) and then participate in a jamboree at Chester on Aug. 11.
But the regular season and the winding road to Thornwell’s football future – and past – is to begin on Sept. 1 at Calhoun Falls Charter. The Saints will play their first home game in 18 years on Sept. 15 against Clear Dot Charter.
“We’ve talked about how there’s this big legacy we have to live up to, and I’m just excited that we get to start a new legacy,” said Parker Workman, a junior quarterback/defensive back.
Workman was referring the 1995 “Big Dog” state championship team, which ended a perfect season with a 12-0 record and the SCISA Class 3A state title. That was the last of eight state championships won by the Saints in SCISA and the S.C. High School League. The first of those championships came in 1926. During a five-year span from 1993-97, the Saints compiled a 50-11 record. From 1980-84, Thornwell was a combined 47-4-1.
This year, the Saints will play an independent schedule before officially joining the SCHSL and being placed in a region upon the SCHSL’s next realignment.
Washington said he and the players know the leap they will have to make to taste that kind of success and climb into the same stratosphere as current Class A powerhouses such as St. Joseph’s, Christ Church and Southside Christian in Greenville.
“It comes down to building their own legacy,” Washington said. “I’ve told the guys that this is a great opportunity to do that. We want to continue Thornwell High School’s legacy, but their records are sealed. This is Thornwell Charter School, so I told them it’s a chance to make their own mark. We’re never going to touch (Thornwel High School’s) records. We’re not going to disrespect that. We’re going to start with some new stuff going on.”
Washington also said he has gotten tremendous support from the Thornwell administration as well as local alumni he has met while in Clinton.
“They’re out there and on alumni night I’m hoping that I can get a lot of those names to support the program,” he said. “We want to bring awareness to what we’re going and really put a staple on Clinton and the Clinton area.”
2023 Varsity Schedule
Sept. 1: at Calhoun Falls Charter
Sept. 8: at McCormick
Sept. 15: Clear Dot Charter
Sept. 22: Great Falls
Sept. 29: at Greenville Hurricanes
Oct. 6: at Anderson Christian
Oct. 20: American Leadership Academy
Oct. 27: Ware Shoals