Athlete of the Week: Adams, St. James ‘Run Through It’

Senior running back Austin Adams and his St. James football teammates thought they had hit rock bottom following a heart-breaking 20-13 loss to Carvers Bay. … then came the postgame speech.

Second-year Sharks coach Mark Fischer broke the news to his already down-trodden players that he had cancer. But rather than being the straw that broke the camel’s back on St. James’ season, it turned out to be a motivating factor – both for Fischer and his Sharks.

“He told us after the Carvers Bay game, and we had just given up a fumble return to lose the game,” Adams recalled. “He told us and there wasn’t a dry eye in the locker room. It was hard to accept at first, very difficult, but it’s turned out to be motivation more than anything else.”

To understand the realtionship between coach and player, one must know the impact Fischer has had on the players and program since his arrival in 2011. He took over a perrenial losing team and taught them the value of hard work – both on and off the field.

When Fischer’s former hometown team was struck by an earthquake last fall, he took the Sharks there during a bye week to help make repairs to homes and the school. The bond that formed began to show signs on the football field.

For seniors like Adams, who have suffered through some difficult years, there’s reason for hope as the Sharks battle through a 2-6 season, a record that could easily be reversed except for some ill-timed mistakes in close games.

“I’ve been playing since my freshman year and I was used to getting blown out and people leaving half way through the games,” Adams said. “At least now we’re in some close games and we’re just a few plays away from winning.”

St. James broke through for a region 42-21 win over Wilson and it proved to be the best medicine for both coach and team. Adams rushed for three touchdowns and 131 yards in the victory over the Tigers and Fischer continues to man the sidelines despite his ongoing treatments.

“Of course coach acts like nothing is bothering him, but that’s just him,” said Adams, who has rushed for 754 yards and nine TDs on the season. “After the Wilson win he shows up in the film room and felt like a million bucks. We all see that and gain strength from it.”

And hope, which is foremost on the Sharks’ minds as the close the season. At 1-2 in the region, St. James faces a tough contest with North Myrtle Beach on Friday that can help them secure a playoff spot with a victory.

The Sharks have added the emblem “RTI” to their helmets, a reminder to “Run Through It,” as Fischer told them that fateful Friday night in September. The motto not only applies to Fischer’s battle with cancer, but also the Sharks’ approach to the final stretch of the season.

“Run through it,” Adams reiterated. “If we can beat North Myrtle Beach and get in the playoffs, and then we close with Socastee and we played them a tough game last year, then it’s a whole new season in the playoffs. We’re going to keep fighting to the end.”

Photo by Rancier Photography

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