A new beginning – First-year coach Windham hoping to resurrect Green Wave


By Kerry Gilstrap
For the Courier

EASLEY — The buzz is in the air. Football season is upon us, and it’s a brand new start for teams across the state.

Every team has great expectations at this point, and they are all hoping to present their fans with a great season.

08-19 Page 1B.inddIt’s no exception in Easley, which is hoping for a new beginning under a first-year head coach.

In coach Grayson Howell’s second — and final — season at the helm last year, the Green Wave finished with a disappointing season. Although there were some close games against some good teams and it seemed as though the Green Wave had opportunities, things just never came together as Easley finished with a 4-7 overall record. The Wave managed to finish with just three region wins in the always-tough Region I-AAAA.

But with the loss of some great talent, the Green Wave are looking to fill some positions and go into this season with great expectations.

This season will be the first for the program under new head coach John Windham, who will be calling the shots for the Green Wave after several years on the staff at Furman University.

Windham had been the Paladins’ defensive coordinator since 2011 before accepting the Easley job in the spring. He has been in a number of coaching roles in the past after a successful playing career.

After graduating from Vanderbilt University, Windham went on to the NFL and played outside linebacker for the New England Patriots. He has a Master of Education in Sports Administration from Mississippi State University and a Bachelor of Science degree from the Vanderbilt.

In addition to Windham, the Green Wave coaching staff features a few more new faces, as the head coach also brought in a number of coaches to help revamp the program.

As always, the road will not be easy for the Green Wave with the likes of Daniel, Seneca, Wren, Laurens, Greenwood and Hillcrest on the schedule, among others.

Easley will also face a stiff challenge to open the season this Friday night in week zero, as it will play host to archrival Pickens, which is also under the leadership of a new head coach in former Blue Flame player John Boggs.

The Green Wave made a good impression throughout the preseason in scrimmages and jamborees, as the Easley offense has moved the ball up and down the field fairly well as the defense has stood up to all comers.

Leadership has been a strong point so far for Easley, which enters the season with nearly 20 seniors on its rosters, a deep junior class and only a handful of sophomores.

Windham has been impressed with what he has seen throughout the early part of his tenure.

“Coming in, I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “I knew Easley had a bunch of tough kids, and they haven’t let me down at all. I’ve really been surprised at the support we have gotten. The parents and the community have been tremendous.

“We want to have a good football team, and by continuing to work hard, maybe we will be.”

Focus has been an issue at times for the Green Wave, Windham said.

“We have to go out there and value every play,” he said.

On the flip side, however, the first-year coach said his players seem to rebound quickly from tough breaks.

“We seem to bounce back — it doesn’t seem to bother those guys and they recover quick, which you have to do,” he said. “We are trying to get it to where we are competing on every play.”

Windham is just excited to finally get things going under the Friday night lights.

“There are situations that are hard to simulate in practice,” he said. “I think we have gotten better, (and) I think we have gotten more comfortable in what we are doing.”

Windham and the Green Wave are taking things one game at a time.

“The team that sticks out to me right now would be Pickens — that’s our next game,” he said. “We are excited about getting ready for them.”

Easley will host the Blue Flame for this year’s eighth annual Sam Wyche Food Fight Bowl to benefit Pickens County Meals on Wheels on Friday night.