Smithfield-Selma High School has two new head coaches for 2015. One is very familiar to the area and school and the other is ready to put the lessons gained from growing up in California to the test.
SSS alum Wes Hill is the Spartans’ new head football coach, while Camarillo, Calif. native Mike Sliger takes over the head baseball post. The duo replaces David Lawhon in both roles.
Hill played (center and linebacker) for legendary coach Jack Gaster during his days as a Smithfield-Selma student. And he worked with one of Johnston County’s other legendary coaches in Gary Fowler as an assistant at Clayton for eight years before joining the SSS staff before the 2013 season.
“Jack Gaster was just a guy who had a great presence on the field,” Hill said. “When he was there, you felt it.
“Both he and Gary were just people persons. They were guys in (coaching) for the relationships, building relationships with students and teaching students how to build positive relationships with others.”
The Spartans went 3-8 last season and 2-3 in the Two Rivers 3A Conference, building on the breakthrough win to finish off the 2013 season — a 22-21 triumph over South Johnston that ended what was the state’s longest prep football losing streak at the time.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to continue the rebuilding here,” Hill said. “It’s been started and I’m looking forward to building on that and making SSS football what it can be.”
Hill, who played collegiately at Gardner-Webb and then N.C. State, said he will stress the three Ds for the Spartans: dedication, discipline and desire. He wants to get the team heavy into community service projects and helping out with the local middle school program.
“Young people today are different,” Hill said. “I told the guys when I met with them that I know they deal with many more distractions than I had to as a high school player. But high school football isn’t an Xbox game. You can’t hit the reset button when something doesn’t go right on a Friday night. You have to be a person — on the field or off — that is in the habit of finishing what you started.”
Sliger played collegiately at Oklahoma Baptist University after a four-year varsity career in baseball and football at Adolfo Camarillo High School. After serving as a graduate assistant at OBU, he coached in a California collegiate summer league — the Santa Paula Halos — in 2013 and coached at Aldofo Camarillo until moving to North Carolina.
“I didn’t expect to become a head coach this soon coming here (to North Carolina), but that’s the way the cards were dealt and I couldn’t be happier,” Sliger said. “I knew three people here two months ago when I got to the area.”
“These kids are excited about high school baseball and this program. I think the work ethic is there to do the things we need to do: players, parents, etc. I’ve never seen this kind of purpose in a group before.”
The Spartans, one of the most successful Triangle-area teams from 2000-10, won just four games in each of the previous two seasons.
“I look back on my baseball experience as a player and I had coaches who didn’t just teach me the game,” Sliger said. “They taught me how to be a man, about showing respect on and off the field, working hard and working together. Those are the things that will lead to success.”