Buddy Pough calls a play for Demetrius Davis while coaching at Fairfield Central High School. (Photo courtesy of Demetrius Davis)

Students, fans and alumni of Fairfield Central High School gather each Friday in Winnsboro to cheer on the football team and their beloved, long-tenured coach, Demetrius Davis.

Davis is in his 12th season as head coach for the Griffins and previously held two collegiate coaching positions.

Taking this job wasn’t just an opportunity for Davis, but a homecoming.

Almost 30 years ago, Davis was lining up at quarterback in Winnsboro, taking calls from the now legendary S.C. State coach, Oliver “Buddy” Pough.

Davis said the whole reason he’s coaching this sport, for this team, is because of everything he learned from Pough. The most important thing? Care first, coach second.

Pough became S.C. State’s head coach in 2002. In his 19-year career there, Pough has become the winningest college football coach in state history.

Pough started as Fairfield Central head coach in 1994. Pough turned the program on its head.

“He came in and completely changed the complexion of our program in one year,” said Davis, who played quarterback at Fairfield Central in 1994. The Griffins had a 2-9 record the season before Pough’s arrival but went 10-4 in Pough’s debut season.

Pough found success in the three years he coached there, his last being the most successful. The team posted a 15-0 record and landed a state championship.

That was Davis’ senior season. He never thought he’d go to college, but Pough encouraged him to pursue a degree.

“When I left (Fairfield Central), he looked at me and said, ‘Meech, you go get you a degree, and I’m going to hire you back here to coach my quarterbacks,’” Davis said. “That was my motivation.”

Davis made it to college, attending Fayetteville (North Carolina) State University. He became a graduate assistant coach at the University of South Carolina in 2000, reuniting with Pough, who by then was USC’s running back coach.

Pough left USC in 2002 to take the head coach job at SCSU.

And Pough had made good on his promise: Davis followed.

“He would do anything for anybody,” Davis said. “Coach Pough was the king of loving you up.”

Davis was an assistant coach under Pough for eight years, starting as the quarterback coach. He said Pough challenged him, and when Davis left in 2010, he had coached every position on offense.

“As soon as I got comfortable with one position, he wanted to move me to another position, and I couldn’t understand it at the time,” Davis said. “He was just grooming me to understand the big picture — to be able to understand every position on the doggone field.”

Every day, Pough is sitting on his shoulder.

“All of what I do is the foundation of what I’ve learned from him over the past 22 years,” Davis said. “Coach Pough has a knack for being tough, but he also has a knack for bringing the best out of kids. … Kids don’t care what you know until they know that you care. He is the guy who does the best job at that.”

As Pough continues his coaching career, his legend continues to grow. And the respect from his colleagues reflects his legacy.

“If people in this state don’t like you and don’t think you’re very good and don’t think you’re a great person, you’re probably not going to last long coaching in this state, whether it’s high school or college,” Gamecocks Head Coach Shane Beamer said. “Whatever it may be, he has.”

Pough’s and Davis’ 2007 S.C. State coaching pictures. (Photos provided by S.C. State Athletics)

Davis introduces Pough at the SCCA Banquet in 2019. (Photo courtesy of Demetrius Davis)