Battery Creek is in the market for its third football coach in less than a year, parting ways with Fred Hamilton after an ill-fated 2-9 season that included losing three key players to injuries suffered in an auto accident.
The Dolphins did make the Class 3A playoffs after capturing a winner-gets-in finale against Ridgeland-Hardeeville, but a loss to eventual state finalist Brookland-Cayce turned out to be the end of Hamilton’s second act at BC.
The first came 14 years earlier, when Hamilton took the Dolphins to the playoffs in his final two seasons of a tenure lasting from 1999-02. His final record at the school stands at 22-31.
“I am not going to make a comment about anything right now,” Hamilton said Tuesday evening via text message. For now, he plans to continue in his teaching job at the school.
Battery Creek athletics director Shelby Strother confirmed Hamilton’s coaching removal Tuesday, but said he did not play a role in the decision. School principal Edmond Burnes did not return multiple voicemails seeking comment.
The coaching job has been advertised on the Beaufort County Schools website since last week. Strother said the posting will remain open until sometime next month, when a committee will begin sifting through applicants.
Strother acknowledged a certain surprise at Hamilton’s dismissal, in light of the various hurdles the Dolphins faced in 2016.
“It normally doesn’t happen that way,” Strother said. “So it was, in a way.”
It was only last June that Hamilton replaced Jim Shuman, who unexpectedly left the Dolphins last March to devote more time to his aging parents.
It was a homecoming of sorts for Hamilton, a chance to pick up again after reluctantly stepping down in 2002 to deal with his own family concerns. After his mother’s death from cancer, he moved on to West Ashley to be closer to his father in Charleston.
Hamilton’s second arrival, though, was challenging from the outset. His hiring came too late for spring drills or summer passing leagues, leaving him to spend fall camp installing his offensive and defensive systems.
Three projected starters were found ineligible before the season. Six others served suspensions for their roles in a sideline skirmish against Beaufort.
While Hurricane Matthew held up the season, Hamilton’s father suffered a stroke. He had to switch offensive coordinators when Dave Fess had to step away to deal with hurricane flooding. And the night before their season was to resume, three Dolphins were critically hurt in a wreck not three miles from campus.
Running back Jelani Boyd, linebacker Ahman Smalls and receiver John DeLoach were hurt when a pickup made a sudden left turn in front of their vehicle. Boyd needed five hours of surgery to repair facial injuries, DeLoach tore up his knee and Smalls suffered a concussion.
“The kicker was the kids getting in the wreck,” Hamilton said in the days before the Dolphins’ playoff loss. “I can deal with athletic injuries. That’s part of it. As a player, I’ve had injuries. You recover from them. ... We were devastated by (the accident).”
The Dolphins lost the next night, handing May River its first program win, and fell to unbeaten Bluffton a week later. But with the final Region 8-3A playoff spot on the line, Battery Creek managed to score 23 consecutive points against Ridgeland-Hardeeville and hold on for a victory.
Hamilton already had been anticipating next season, when he could get a full spring practice and infuse his returning roster with players from a JV squad that went 6-1.