Midland Valley High School's Clayton Chriswell stepped down Thursday as head football coach after nine years at the helm of the Mustangs.
The 32-year coaching veteran cited health reasons as his reason for resigning. Chriswell's long-time assistant Rick Knight takes over as interim head coach for the remainder of the season. Knight recently took over the athletics director duties.
Midland Valley has started the season at 1-2, losing to Aiken 21-0, and North Augusta 24-10 after opening the season with a 33-6 win over South Aiken. The Mustangs open the Region 4-AAA season tonight with Newberry at 7:30.
"The season had nothing to do with it, and he's not sick" Knight said. "We had tossed it back and forth a couple of weeks now. But actually it's been a couple of years. We took turns talking him out of it, but he's just tired, and he wanted to spend more time with his family."
Chriswell, 56, spent the past nine seasons at Midland Valley, taking the Mustangs to the playoffs 5-of-8 seasons. After going 0-11 in 1991, the Aiken County native rejuvenated the program, leading the Mustangs to the third round of the Class AAA state playoffs in 1997 before losing to Daniel.
Chriswell could not be reached for comment Thursday night.
"He had to have a good reason, because I don't think he would just leave us," said senior linebacker Pele Williams, who's started under Chriswell for three years. "He's a good coach, and he makes sure he gets it all out of you. I don't expect him to just leave us, he'll still be around the field."
Before coming to Midland Velley, Chriswell spent two seasons at Lake City, but he is most noted for his tenure at Silver Bluff. The 56-year-old was the school's first coach in 1981, taking the Bulldogs to a Class AA state title in 1986 before leaving for Lake City in 1988.
"What he started at Silver Bluff kind of made other area schools take note to upgrade their programs," Knight said. "I just think he's the best. Aiken County is in his debt for everything that he's done for football in this area."
Knight, who has been an assistant under Chriswell, hopes to become the permanent head coach, while Chriswell will continue his duties teaching drivers education at Midland Valley.
"Things will go on pretty much the same way," Knight said. "Everything I know about football comes from him. I would love to coach here if they'll have me. We thought we were headed in the right direction here. Hopefully he'll stick around to give me advice every day."
Reach Patrick Green at (803) 648-1395.