LOWCO HSFB: Changing of the guard at Beaufort Academy

Clifford steps down as head coach, THA’s Shuford to lead Eagles

A Lowcountry coaching legend is stepping down, but he’s sticking around to help the next guy add to his already impressive resume.

Mark Clifford, the longtime football coach at Beaufort High School before capping off his career with a run at Beaufort Academy that included winning a SCISA 8-man state championship and guiding the program through a successful transition to traditional football, announced his retirement as the Eagles’ head coach Monday.

“It’s bittersweet. I’m still sharp up here,” Clifford said Monday night, pointing at his temple, “but you’ve seen the way I am when I coach. I just can’t do it anymore, physically.”

Clifford will remain on staff at BA to assist and advise veteran Thomas Heyward Academy coach Nic Shuford, who agreed to terms with the school Thursday and on Friday announced his departure from THA at the end of the school year.

“First off, thank you to Coach Clifford for everything he’s done building this program from the ground up,” BA athletics director William Howell said. “I am also thrilled to have Coach Clifford stay on staff to make this a seamless transition.”

Howell and Shuford already had a strong working relationship as their schools’ athletics directors, so when Clifford indicated a readiness to take a step back, Howell’s mind naturally wandered toward Ridgeland.

“Nic’s coaching resume speaks for itself,” Howell said, “and his leadership skills, passion for the game of football, and dedication to growing successful young men on and off the field is going to be a true difference maker for our school, program, and student-athletes.”

Shuford guided the Rebels to four consecutive SCISA 1A state titles before a runner-up finish this season, compiling a 115-51 record, including a 56-8 mark since 2018. The Rebels also finished as state runners-up twice and won seven region titles during his tenure.

“I will forever be grateful for the time spent at Thomas Heyward,” Shuford said. “The opportunity I was given to be a part of so many students’ lives in that time is something I will always cherish.”

Now he has a chance to build a new dynasty at BA, which already figured to be one of the top contenders in SCISA 2A in 2023. The Eagles return the majority of their key players from a team that went 8-3 and reached the state semifinals, and now they have a veteran quarterback to slide into graduating star Braydon Dineen’s role — Shuford’s son Dietrich passed for 1,686 yards with 18 touchdowns and six interceptions and added 794 yards and 7 TDs on 82 carries as a sophomore this season at THA despite coming off a season-ending knee injury that required surgery a year earlier.

The Shufords already reside in Beaufort, so the opportunity was something they couldn’t pass up.

“My family and I are extremely excited to be joining the BA family,” Nic Shuford said. “This is a great opportunity to be able to contribute to the great legacy and history of Beaufort Academy. The administration and Coach Clifford have done an excellent job building the football program here and I can’t wait to be just a small part of taking it to the next level.”

With Beaufort High defending a state title around the corner and an influx of talent and new energy en route to BA, fall can’t come soon enough on Lady’s Island.

“I’m biased, but I think we will have two of the best football coaches in the Lowcountry here at Beaufort Academy,” Howell said. “I’m ready for the next era of BA football.”


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