UNION — Mike Anthony led Union to three state titles as a head coach. His team played in the state championship for four consecutive years from 1999 to 2002. What was it that set those teams apart?
“Defense,” said Anthony. “Every one of those them played lights out on defense.”
There was also a determination to be the best.
“It was a lot of fun to watch those kids prepare every week and do all they did to win,” Anthony recalled. “The 1999 championship team was really special because it was my first one. I remember Coach Bobo had some T-shirts printed up at the beginning of the year that he gave everybody and they had 1 2 3 9 9 on them.
“Of course, I had to approve them because I was Athletic Director, but I didn’t know what it meant,” he added. “None of us did. He’d say, ‘You guys will figure it out eventually.’ Come to find out it was the date of the State Championship game that we went on to win.”
Union County’s 2012 football season has been a lot like Union’s 1997 season, according to Anthony. The first-year head coach saw his team slip into the playoffs with a losing record and make a run for the championship before meeting Daniel at Upper State.
“We were 4-6 at the end of regular season and got into the playoffs at fourth place in the Region,” he said. “Then we went like Union County has, on the road, and beat four teams. We beat Newberry, then we beat Belton-Honea Path who everybody thought would win by three touchdowns. Then we beat Seneca and we led Daniel at halftime but they came back and beat us. That was an unusual year just like this one’s been. We ended the season at 7-7 after starting the playoffs at 4-6.”
Anthony said that Union County’s new head coach is the real deal.
“You’re either all in or all out with him,” said Anthony. “He’s confident and completely focused on what he does. You have to earn your respect with kids, you don’t demand it and I think he’s earned that simply because of his work ethic.”
Union County, he said, is a football town.
“I coached in Batesburg-Leesville and I coached in Greenville,” Anthony began. “At both of those places I felt like when we got to about the 12th or 13th week with those guys we had there, they were ready to go play basketball, especially Greenville. That’s a basketball town.
“In Union County it’s always been ‘we are going to finish this thing’ in football,” he said. “I think these kids really like playing in late November, early December and that’s something special because many of those guys out there now play on the basketball team but they don’t start basketball till football is over. It’s amazing how the kids in Union County love football.”