- Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 March 2009 18:16
- Published on Wednesday, 25 March 2009 18:16
- Hits: 2702
Can you say STATE CHAMPIONS? Hold on now, I’m getting ahead of myself. As a keen observer of Colonial Beach High School basketball for 43 years, I’d like to share some of my thoughts with you over this time frame.
The 1967-68 school year was my first peek at CBHS Athletics. Charles “Brick” Thomas led the Drifter girls basketball team (featuring Linda Steffey and a strong supporting cast) to the District F (now the Northern Neck District) Championship. The boys team was very competitive, but couldn’t match the Lady Drifters success. During this time, fifth grader Steve Swope and friends could be found standing in the windows behind the Drifter team in the “Cracker Box” for home games and crammed in Frank Copin’s Chrysler for away games.
In fact, regardless of ability or record, I was impressed right away by not only strong fan support for home games, but a Drifter “convoy” reminiscent of “Hoosiers” for away contests. By searching old newspapers and yearbooks, I discovered this Drifter “fanaticism” had been stoked by Coaches A. C. “Breezy” Holloman and Kenneth Daly in the early 1960’s. They had both the boys and girls teams near the top of District F nearly every year. Coach Holloman advanced the boys to the Region A Tournament at William and Mary in 1961, where they defeated Cape Charles, before coming up just short against West Point. Unfortunately, during this era, tournament play was unavailable for girls basketball beyond the district level.
Following the departure of Holloman and Daly ,”Brick” Thomas directed the Lady Drifters to back to back championships, but the boys went in the other direction for a couple of years. Kentucky native Don Wilson restored order and pride to the boys program during the 1966-67 season before moving on to Group AA basketball.
His move enabled Charlotte and I to utilize the “3R’s” (Readin’, Ritin’ and the Road to Richmond) in moving from High Point, North Carolina to Colonial Beach. We received strong support from the entire community from the first day and utilized full court pressure and fast break basketball to create excitement, to compensate for lack of size, and to involve more players.
The Drifters were competitive from day one with occasional upsets of arch rivals Washington & Lee and King George, and even a 13 game winning streak in 1969-70. Despite a lineup that featured Vincent DiRosario, Joe Frye, future All State selection Selven “Duck” Watts, Mike Powell and Raymond Morris, there were no championships on the Beach resume. Lack of depth was always a problem for the smallest school in the area, and it was exacerbated when every school except CBHS consolidated and doubled the size of their school population.
During this time, Steve Swope had worked his way up the ladder from the junior high team to j.v. and to varsity as a sophomore. Though not physically imposing, nor fleet of foot and with limited “ups”, he was one of the best pure shooters to lace up sneakers for the Black and Gold. In fact, Steve and undersized post player Wayne “Moser” Beverly provided the bulk of the scoring during the 1970-71 season.
Former James Monroe High School All State player Teed Walfe took over the reins of Drifter b-ball for 2 seasons (1971-73) When Charlotte and I moved back to North Carolina. Coach Walfe and the Drifters experienced early success, but fell victim to the old bugaboo (lack of depth).
Much to our delight, Charlotte and I were invited back to CB for the 1973-74 school year. Meanwhile Steve Swope had enrolled at Rappahannock Community College to further his education.
Following an enjoyable first season back in “River City,” Colonial Beach decided to join the Tri State Conference in order to compete with schools of similar enrollments. In the ensuing years, our j.v. girls (coached by Pat FitzGerald),
Our j.v. boys (coached by Ken Chatham and later Eric D’Antonio and Roger Mowery), our varsity girls (coached by Ken Chatham) and our varsity boys won various regular season and/or tournament basketball championships. All of these were very exciting and celebrated as only true Drifters can celebrate.
Fast forward to 1977 and you can find Joseph Stephen Swope amongst the graduates of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg (“Gawd’s Country”). August of that year saw Superintendent Homer Kline hire Steve as an elementary physical education teacher, varsity baseball coach, j.v. football coach and j.v. basketball coach. Much success followed this well organized, committed and loyal young man in all areas almost immediately. Though soft spoken and a keen observer and patient listener, time would confirm that Steve Swope was an intense and successful competitor.
Coach Swope exchanged ideas with high school and college coaches’ alike, read books, and attended many, many coaches ‘clinics and seminars to improve himself as a teacher and coach. As a result, he claimed many basketball season and/or tournament championships (with Lamon White, “Juice” Gray, etc.) and Coach of the Year honors as selected by his peers. Once again, Coach Swope and the Drifter faithful celebrated each success with great Black and Gold pride.
A few days before Christmas in 1987, I convinced Steve Swope he was the only logical choice to become the varsity boys basketball coach beginning with the 1988-89 season. boys basketball coach beginning with the 1988-89 season. I’m the first person to admit I have not always made good decisions, but I am convinced this one was a bull’s eye!
Following 20 years of Tri State competition, the decision was made to join the Delaney Athletic Conference beginning with the 1995-96 school year. Championships were earned by junior high boys (coached by Paul Miles and Keith Dickerson), j.v. boys (Randy Jones and Joe Jones) and varsity boys. Behind strong play by Neal Coleman, Tim Ford, Joey Swope, Dylan Farinet, Tyler Swope, T.T. Carey and strong supporting casts, Coach Swope’s varsity Drifters clipped the nets more than once at Highland School in Warrenton.
Beginning with the 2007-08 school year, Colonial Beach decided to rejoin the Virginia High School League and compete in the Tidewater District in order to give our student/athletes the opportunity for Region and State Championships. Right out of the gate, the Drifter boys lost only one district game, won the Regular Season title and finished second to King William in the tournament on their court. CBHS disposed of Appomattox Regional in Region A playoffs and even though seeded second had to travel to 3rd seeded Surry County next. Surry defeated CB and sent us packing. Nathan Galloway, Tim Wilson, Terry Bushrod, Dylan Farinet and T.T. Carey and our entire team had provided many fond memories and stoked Coach Swope’s fires to claim a bigger prize in the future.
How had the Drifters gotten to this point? Coach Swope ‘s work ethic, his passion for success and community involvement and support were a large part of the success. The Drifter Skipper had also assembled a great staff (Jonathan Parker, Randy Jones, Earl Payton and Casey Johnson) and organized and directed open gyms, summer league play, high school and college basketball camps and Saturday morning leagues. In addition, he and his staff had provided counseling, direction, discipline, academic support, transportation, etc. to current and future Drifters. Coach Swope had developed the ability to deal with bad calls and no calls, outside distractions, players failing off and various situations he had no control over. He also worked very hard at developing team play, team chemistry, even “team love” through team outings, cookouts, overnight trips, etc. In addition, he was the beneficiary of players who have come through the various Drifter programs from kindergarten through today. Finally, Drifter parental, staff and community support can never be underestimated.
The 2008-2009 season started inauspiciously with a first game one point loss at Lancaster and a lack luster home loss to Chancellor, as well as a one point loss at the buzzer at King George. In between and thereafter, CB improved enough to handily avenge all 3 losses, sweep Northern Neck District Champion Essex and soundly defeat Washington & Lee and Northumberland to claim the Indians Christmas Tournament.
The fact is, the Beach went on a winning streak that included the aforementioned games as well as a perfect 12-0 record against Tidewater foes enroute to regular season and tourney championships. This earned the Drifters a #1 seed in the Region. They easily disposed of Charles City before gaining sweet revenge against Surry 100-76 in the Drifter Dome behind Dylan Farinet (34 points) and T. T. Carey ‘s (46 points) combined 80 points. This was definitely CB’s best offensive game of the year.
Strangely enough, the Beach still had to travel to Surry the next night where they claimed the Region A Championship against Franklin. Wow! Three games in 4 nights=3 victories and no sleep for Coach Swope.
Could it be that Colonial Beach would do the unthinkable? Next up, the Riverheads Gladiators. The Beach overcame their patient offensive strategy with relative ease at the Siegel Center. Although Altavista provided a similar, but tougher test, the Drifters again prevailed on Virginia Commonwealth University’s court.
For Coach Swope, the last four weeks had been exciting, but exhausting. Celebrating, sure, but not getting too high, because focus was paramount if the Beach was going to achieve their next objective. Finally, the big day was right around the corner. Now it seemed the late night return bus trips, the early Saturday morning wakeups, worrying over player illnesses, wondering about competency and fairness by officials, the loss of hair and the change in hair color, and all game preparations were really worth it.
The Drifter convoy to Richmond had been exemplary for their first two games, and the school board and administration would make certain it was unparalled for the State Title Game! They closed school at noon and provided pep buses and, in the process, helped fill the Siegel Center with a sea of Black and Gold.
The last hour or so before tipoff for “big” games are gut wrenching for coaches, and Steve Swope was no exception. After some final words for the team and coaches, he moved quietly away from everyone, pulled Grandma Kinney’s lucky rabbit’s foot out, rubbed it, gave it a big kiss and stuck it back into his pocket.
To say that the Drifter fan base was loud before the game, was an under statement. Coach Swope was grateful for that and also for the opportunity ahead. With his and every Beach supporter’s heart racing, the game was now at hand!
The Drifters were so hyped up, they were their own worst enemy. Turnovers, missed shots, and violations were rampant and Eastern Montgomery was playing much better than they had in the semi finals. It appeared as though CB was trying to win the game in too big of a hurry. Except for strong team rebounding and exceptional play by seniors Thomas (T.P.) Peery and Jeryl Dickerson off the bench, the Drifter deficit at half time would have been much greater than 26-33!
After making halftime adjustments and providing encouragement to his team, Coach Swope slipped in a few more rubs on Grandma Kinney’s rabbit’s foot, (resulting in much lost of fur)and led the Drifter b-ballers back into the bright lights for the last 16 minutes of their quest for a state championship.
Encouraged by the vociferous Drifter fanatics the Beach was a different team, as they blitzed the Mustangs 15-0 to open the second half. The Drifter “D” was swarming and Farinet, Jeryl Dickerson and Carey were rebounding and scoring with consistency. However, Coach Swope knew a team as talented as Eastern Montgomery would make a run and he was on the money!
In the process of breaking the state record for 3 pointers (13), the Mustangs regained the lead before CB tied the score at 67 and 70. Were the Drifters and Coach Swope going to be denied at the last second? Not with Farinet and Carey wearing the Black and Gold and the Drifter faithful roaring loudly! T. T. scored over his defender with 18 seconds remaining and Dylan nailed clutch free throws down the stretch. After one final 3 pointer by the Mustangs missed, CBHS had prevailed 77-75! Coach Swope, sporting a grin reminiscent of a mule eating briars, with his trademark shirt tail completely out and manager Jared Flores on his shoulders and the Drifter players proudly accepted their State Championship trophy, much to the delight of their rabid fans. Amazingly, this was the 16th consecutive victory for the Beach.
When I first started coaching at CB, our principal, Bernard T. Burchell, would drive the bus to some of the games. Before the players left the bus, he would remove his hat and say, “Boys, I’ve got just one thing to say to you. Whup ‘em !” My team and I always tried to honor Mr. B’s requests, but we were never as successful as Coach Swope and the 2008-2009 boys varsity basketball team.
Colonial Beach was incorporated in 1892 and our school was constructed in 1908. Thanks to Joe Slater, Ken Devers, Alex Gorfida, Jeryl Dickerson, Thomas Peery, Paul Roberson, Jamel Dickerson, Kevin Swope, Dylan Farinet, T. T. Carey, Jared Flores (Manage), Kurt Smith, (Statistician), Lauren Wilson, (Scorekeeper), Joyce Robey (Scorekeeper), Bill Sanford (Statistician), Josh Thomas (Manager), Coach Johnson, Coach Parker, Coach Jones, Coach Swope, Drifter cheerleaders and coaches, Jeremy Jack (Director of Athletics), and Beach fans, we have a STATE CHAMPIONSHIP 101 Years later!!!!
It was certainly a team effort, but it sure is refreshing to see native son Steve Swope bring our community together to achieve this lofty accomplishment for not only his team and himself, but also for every past Drifter athlete, coach and fan who gave it their all, but could not be as successful as this years basketball team. Colonial Beach has always been the home of DRIFTER PASSION, but now it is also the home of STATE CHAMPIONS!!!!
I surely hope I am fortunate enough to witness many more state titles for all of our academic and athletic teams.
By Wayne Kennedy