Coach Dustin Curtis on Lexington High football, working at USC

The high school football season is underway around the state of South Carolina.

Each week, The State will feature a question-and-answer segment with a prominent high school football player or coach in the Midlands along with this week’s schedule and the top games to watch.

This week, we talked with Lexington High School coach Dustin Curtis, who is in his first season as head coach at his alma mater. Curtis touches on being back home, his favorite Lexington High memories and what it was like being an equipment manager for the South Carolina football team from 2003-06.

Lexington is off to a 2-0 start and travels to Stratford on Friday.

Lou Bezjak: What have these last few months been like for you being back at Lexington as not just a coach but athletic director?

Dustin Curtis: “It certainly has been a learning curve but a welcome one. It is exciting to be part of an entire athletic department. I had a lot to do over the summer and spring when I got there setting things up. It is pretty special to be back to pour into a community that I felt raised me and made me want to be coach.”

LB: What have things been like on the football field, getting to know the players and getting to introduce your system?

DC: “Every stop I have been at, the coach before me was a really good coach. It’s not like things have been broken. Each coach has to run the program in their own identity so naturally there is a little give and take, telling the players what I expect and changes that I have made. The kids and the coaches have been great. It is a great community and culture already. Part of their identity the last few years is they play hard and are physical so that part has been fun to step into. So it has been putting my alma mater hat on and passionately love the team and the school that I am now leading. Anybody who loves where they grew up and loves where they played, it is kind of a dream situation.”

LB: Looking back at your time as a player at Lexington, what were some of your favorite memories or moments?

DC: “My first two years, we lost close games to Irmo. My senior year, we blew them out. I remember that game, and it was a lot of fun. I remember playing Aiken High School my senior year on a Monday night because Friday got rained out. They had Brian Staley and were really talented. Then beating Spartanburg (in the state semifinals) was a cool feeling because it was like ‘Holy crap, we are going to state.’ That whole week leading up to the state championship, aside from the way it ended, was the most fun I ever had as a student. Those are memories that I cherish and hope, God willing, that we can accomplish at Lexington when I am here.”

LB: You got to play with some talented players at Lexington, including sharing the backfield with Demetris Summers. What is your favorite memory, play or Summers story?

DC: “With him and Chris Clark, both of who went on to South Carolina, I was certainly the lesser of the three. A lot of my success was because those two got keyed on so much. My funniest Summers memory was against Irmo and we called an isolation play. I took a step to go through the A or B gap and block the inside linebacker. Right before I made contact with him, I felt this blur fly right by me. It turns out it was Summers. He ran 40-something yards for a touchdown. I went jogging down the field to go celebrate with him. He immediately found me, brought the football and tossed it to me in my stomach. He said, ‘Hey Curtis I beat you to the hole.’ He definitely did and he was a pretty special player.”

LB: You went into coaching. Who were some of your influences that guided you on the path?

DC: “Certainly my coach at Lexington, coach Jimmy Satterfield. I think a lot of us – Jon Wheeler, Chris Goodman, Josh Harpe, Scott Davis – got into coaching and education because of him. Coach Satterfield made us understand there were things bigger than the game. Being around him, coach Bart Miller, Ed Bouknight and Mike Hardee in the weight room. I think I knew my senior that was the direction I was heading.”

LB: You are a big South Carolina fan. What are some of your favorite memories of Gamecock football?

DC: “I’ve got two bad ones. I was at the East Carolina game, a downpour game where there was water in the upper deck. I also sat through another tropical depression for Lou Holtz’s first game and watched us lose a depressing game. Most of my positive memories were when I became equipment manager at USC. And a lot of those guys when I think of Gamecock football were there when I was there during the Holtz and early Steve Spurrier era.”

LB: What was it like being an equipment manager? They have to do a lot of the dirty work with a lot of long hours behind the scenes.

DC: “I can’t say we spent more time there than the players, but it was pretty close. On game days, we had to be there five hours ahead of time. Lot of far away road games, we would leave at 10 o’clock the night before and drive through the night on a charter bus, so the sleep was never that great. But man, we had a blast. I wasn’t in a fraternity in college so that was my fraternity – the managers, the trainers. The friends that I made, that was a really cool experience. Being able to go to so many road games and see so many SEC venues, there is a reason it is the best conference in the country. It was really cool. Yes, it was a lot of work but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”

Five must-see games this week

Camden (2-0) at Hartsville (2-0): This is the 93rd meeting between the two teams and believed to be one of the longest standing non-region rivalries in the state. Camden is ranked No. 4 in Class 3A and Hartsville is No. 4 in 4A. Hartsville has won 11 of the last 13 in the series, including 36-29 last year. … If Camden wins, it would be the 700th win in program history. Camden has won its first two games by a combined score of 102-6. QB Grayson White is completing 75% of his passes for 498 yards and 8 total TDs. Shiver Huggins; leads Camden with 3 sacks and 2 fumble recoveries. … Hartsville running backs Carmelo McDaniel and Hakeem Walters have combined for 699 yards and 9 TDs in the first two games this season.

Fairfield Central (2-0) at Chester (2-0): Fairfield Central leads all-time series, 23-9, but Chester has won the last two, including 34-32 last season. Fairfield is ranked No. 3 in 2A and Chester is No. 5 in 3A. … Fairfield QB Cam McMillon is 30-of-43 passing for 498 yards and 4 TDs. FC’s TyDarion Grier had 275 all-purpose yards last week against Andrew Jackson. … Chester RB Elijah Coleman leads the team with 319 yards rushing and 4 TDs. Chester’s defense has nine sacks in its first two games.

Gray Collegiate (2-0) at Hammond (1-1): First regular-season meeting in football between the two programs. Gray head coach Adam Holmes was an assistant coach at Hammond from 2003-07. … Gray is coming off a 62-60 win over Crestwood last week. Gray RB BJ Montgomery has rushed for 387 yards and 6 TDs in the first two games. Jamarious Lockett leads the team with 9 catches for 274 yards and 5 TDs. Zeb Taylor leads Gray with 26 tackles and 2 sacks. … Hammond has played three quarterbacks in each of the first two games. Hammond RB Manny Johnson leads the team with 218 all-purpose yards. Will McQueen leads Hammond with 28 tackles, 11 for loss and 5 sacks. Hammond’s win over Florence Christian last week was the 600th in program history.

Hough (NC) (1-1) at Dutch Fork (0-2): Dutch Fork is trying to avoid its first three-game losing streak since 2009, a year before head coach Tom Knotts arrived and built the Silver Foxes into a powerhouse. Silver Foxes won the only other meeting between the two teams, 27-24, in last year’s Charlotte’s Kickoff Classic. WR Jacob Hamilton leads DF with 13 catches for 164 yards and one TD. Derrick McBride leads the Silver Foxes with two sacks. … Hough kicker Nolan Hauser is a Clemson commit and has a N.C. state record 54 made field goals in his career, two shy of tying the national record held by Cole Hedlund of Argyle High School in Texas.

River Bluff (2-0) at Irmo (2-0): Game is WACH Fox Sonic Rivals Game of the Week. The all-time series between two teams is tied 3-3 but River Bluff has won two straight, including 49-6 last season. Both teams are averaging more than 50 points per game on offense. … Irmo is ranked No. 7 in Class 4A and is looking for its first 3-0 start since 2017. Irmo QB AJ Brand has thrown for 483 yards, 8 TDs and rushed for 220 yards, 2 TDs in first two games. Irmo RB Jaden Allen-Hendrix has 435 all-purpose yards and five touchdowns this season. … River Bluff QB Parker Murray has completed 77 percent of his passes for 309 yards and 4 TDs. River Bluff WR Stephen Collier has 7 catches for 126 yards and 4 total TDs and Trace Nettles leads the team with 208 yards rushing, 2 TDs. Alonzo Singleton leads the team with 3½ tackles for loss and 2 sacks.

This week’s game schedule

Thursday

Keenan at Richland Northeast

Friday

Ben Lippen at Pinewood Prep

Bethlehem Christian at Heathwood Hall

Blythewood at Westwood

Camden at Hartsville

Chapin at Spring Valley

Darlington at Lugoff-Elgin

Edisto at Columbia

Fairfield Central at Chester

Gilbert at South Aiken

Gray Collegiate at Hammond

Hough (NC) at Dutch Fork

Lakewood at Dreher

Lamar at Airport

Laurens Academy at Newberry Academy

Lexington at Stratford

Lower Richland at Ridge View

Newberry at Clinton

Ninety Six at Saluda

North Central at CA Johnson

Oakbrook Prep at WW King

Orangeburg Prep at Northside Christian

Pelion at Eau Claire

Ridge Spring-Monetta at Batesburg-Leesville

River Bluff at Irmo

Wardlaw at Richard Winn

Whitmire at Mid-Carolina

Saturday

White Knoll at Colleton County, 2 p.m.

Lou Bezjak: (803) 771-8419, @LouatTheState

Caption:

Sam Wolfe Special To The State

Lexington head coach Dustin Curtis speaks with his players following their game in the Lexington 1 Sports-A-Rama Jamboree at River Bluff High School on Friday, August 11, 2023.

September 1, 2023  
State, The (Columbia, SC)  
Columbia, South Carolina
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September 1, 2023  
State, The (Columbia, SC)  
Columbia, South Carolina
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