Legendary Midway head football coach Tommy Sloan has decided to retire from coaching, a career that spanned some 44 years.
Sloan grew up in Lee County and graduated from Sanford Central High School. From there he attended college at Campbell and later completed a Masters program at Fayetteville State and Drivers Education at East Carolina.
Coach Sloan’s teaching career began in the Clinton City Schools. “I went there to take Coach Raynor’s place when he was playing major league baseball and had to go to spring training,” explained the Midway coach. Sloan did his student teaching in the fall of 1969 and began coaching in the spring of 1970, while teaching at Butler Avenue School.
The opportunity to coach at Midway came in 1973. That year, Sloan coached basketball and baseball and was an assistant in football. The head football job came open his second year, so he gave up basketball and took the position he would hold from 1974-1998 and again from 2010 to the present.
Sloan first retired from coaching in 1998, although he continued teaching at Midway High School and later Midway Middle, where he was football coach for 4 years, before returning to the high school.
Coach Sloan’s Raider baseball team won a State Championship in 1981, defeating Nakina (from Columbus County). He also served as the school’s athletic director for 30 years.
Sloan cites two games as being extremely memorable during his career. The first was against Union some years back. The Raiders were trailing hopelessly as the game was about to end. “We had no timeouts left, there was less than a minute to go and they had the ball,” recalled Sloan. “Then for some reason, we caused a fumble between the center and the quarterback and got the ball and went on to score and win.”
The other standout game was this past season. The Raiders trailed East Bladen with just over a minute to go. It was 4th and 11 and Midway had the ball on their own 6 yard line. Raider quarterback Taylor Calcutt found Andre Sankey for a miracle 94 yard pass play to give the Raiders a 16-13 win.
As for advice for aspiring high football coaches, Sloan says, “Young coaches will be enthusiastic and energetic, more so than I am. They will work hard at it and study. The game’s changing. The last 3 or 4 years, everything’s spread. They just have to keep up with the changes and put in the time.”
Sloan finished his career with an overall record of 217-118. His Raider teams won conference championships in 1978, 1988-90, and 1992-97. They were conference runners up in 1991, 1998, and 2013. This year’s team finished 9-3, losing in the playoffs to Holmes High School in Edenton.
Sloan’s teams were regional runners up in 1995 and 1996. They played Swain County for the State Championship in 1988.
Coach Sloan credits several coaches in helping to mold his career.
“I started under Chris Caison,” said Sloan. “He was an organization man. Bobby Robinson came in behind him. He was a fundamentals man. Then I came to Midway and worked under Phil Byrd. He was more of a motivational type person.” Sloan says he picked up a little from each of those coaches.
When asked about how high school football has changed since 1970, Coach Sloan says “Kids are faster, more physical, and more athletic, but that is not to say that their heart has changed.” He says that today’s kids get a lot of ideas from watching games on TV.
Sloan points out Heath Shuler and Dee Hardison as being among the greatest players he has coached against. Shuler was the quarterback at Swain County when Midway played them in 1988. He and Hardison, from Hobbton, both went on to careers in the NFL.
Several coaches stand out in Sloan’s memory as being great competitors. “We had Ken Avent at North Duplin, Harvey Brooks at Princeton, Jack Holly at Wallace-Rose Hill, Al Britt at Hobbton, and Jeff Bell at Lakewood, among others. They were all pretty tough,” Sloan recalled.
Coach Sloan says that he will miss being around the kids. “There is never dull moment around them and they keep you young,” asserted Sloan. He says that he will not miss the practices and the bus rides.
Regarding his players at Midway he asserts, “We had some great ones. One of the things I tried to stress is when you put on that Midway blue, you’re special. You play hard the entire game and give it what you got and you don’t quit. I think all of our great players did that. You’re only as good as your players and we had some good ones.”
In conclusion, Sloan attests that “Midway people have been great for us and I have had a good long run. It’s been a good place to work with good people to work for.” The coach also stressed that he had a great coaching staff.
For his future plans, the Raider coach does not rule anything out, (other than substitute teaching) but for now he says, “I am just going to sit back and do what my wife tells me.”