It’s Christmas in August for high school football fans. The 43rd annual Sertoma Football Classic, held Thursday and Friday, isn’t the first time local teams have gone head to head in their preseason slates.
There have been 7-on-7 and full-team scrimmages already. But, Sertoma is different. It’s under the bright lights of a Division I football field at The Citadel and the seating capacity is 21,000 – not a couple hundred by way of squeaky bleachers.
The football classic is the Sertoma Club of Charleston’s flagship fundraising event. Since it was chartered in 1951, the club has donated $3.5 million to local charities and other community projects, according to its website. Its motto is “kids helping kids.”
All usual playing rules apply in the classic with a few exceptions. There are no kickoffs and the ball is placed on the 30-yard line. If the defense forces a safety, the ball is spotted at midfield. Punts, however, are live.
Each quarter begins with a first down on the 30-yard line, no matter what happened in the previous quarter. If the designated home team – wearing colored uniforms – ends its quarter on defense, the next quarter begins with the home team on defense. The same is true for that scenario offensively. The first game of each night features a coin toss to determine which team starts with the ball.
Each team has one 20-second timeout. And, lastly, no running score is kept, so The Citadel scoreboard won’t have a huge total of home vs. away games at the end of each night. Score is kept each quarter, but removed before the next quarter begins.
Information about parking, tickets and entrances can be found online at www.charlestonsertoma.org under “Football Classic.”
Wando, a 4A Region 7 program, entertains 3A Region 8 power Hanahan for two quarters on Thursday. The Hawks finished last season’s campaign 11-2, including its third round state playoff loss to Strom Thurmond. Hanahan earned a No. 1 seed in the Lower State bracket and rolled over Gilbert (49-14) and Myrtle Beach (34-26) before falling to Strom Thurmond’s stifling defense (27-10).
Hanahan averaged nearly 38 points per game while limiting opponents to about 16.
Wando also enjoyed a successful regular season slate last season. The Warriors posted an all-time best 10-1 regular season, which was later improved to 11-0 after the Goose Creek loss was ruled a Gator forfeiture by way of a South Carolina High School League (SCHSL) rules violation.
Wando exited the 4A state playoffs prematurely, though, with a 25-20 loss to White Knoll. White Knoll went on to also upset Irmo in the next round before falling to the eventual state runner up.
At the Warriors’ official first day of practice this season, coach Jimmy Noonan said the postseason loss was just an example of 4A football. “Our guys have to know and understand you have to be at your best every single Friday night,” he said.
Wando’s offense, led by a cadre of capable seniors, averaged nearly 33 points per game. What should be considered the most impressive feat was the pass-run plays average. The Warriors ran the ball 50.5 percent of the time and passed 49.5 percent.
Last week, Noonan said senior Dalton Stubbs appeared to have won the battle for starting quarterback over a junior and sophomore.
Wando’s defense, which featured a seasoned group of linebackers, held opponents to about 18 points per contest. The Warriors have plenty of work to do to replace key seniors from last season, but because of Noonan’s knack for rotating players to optimize playing time, don’t expect Wando to take a step backwards this year.
Palmetto Christian, a 2A program becoming one of SCISA’s best, plays SCHSL 2A Region 6 foe Garrett in the first game on Friday. For a point of reference, Garrett shares its conference with Bishop England.
Palmetto Christian was originally scheduled to play Kingstree in the same time slot, but Kingstree and Garrett switched opponents for an unknown reason. Garrett went 6-6 last season and allowed more than 25 points per game while only scoring about 21 points.
The only common opponent from last year between Palmetto Christian and Garrett was Lincoln, which both teams beat 56-0. Garrett was eliminated from the first round of the 2A state playoffs by Lake Marion, 43-6.
Palmetto Christian exceeded expectations in its first season in the 2A ranks. The Eagles, with now four-year starting quarterback J.T. Waters, won their first five games and ended with a 7-4 record.
They lost in the first round of the state playoffs to Florence Christian, which coach Jim Daniel considers the favorite to win this year’s state title. Palmetto Christian won the games it was supposed to win and failed to upset any better teams.
With a renewed emphasis on strength training spearheaded by the senior class, Daniel believes this group has what it takes to be considered an elite SCISA program. The Eagles’ question marks are depth and replacing leading tackler Conner Treece, who graduated this past spring. Their offense is mostly back, highlighted by Waters, tailback Ryan Roe and receiver Ben German. If the starters remain healthy all season, the Eagles can threaten any team on any given night.
Palmetto Christian played its first regular season game Tuesday at Porter-Gaud. It was completed after the Moultrie News went to press. Go to www.MoultrieNews.com/sports to see how the Eagles fared.
Bishop England, the defending two-time 2A state champions, faces 4A Region 8 Summerville on Friday night in what will be a sea of green. Summerville used a challenging nonconference schedule last season that included losses to Goose Creek, Wando and Cane Bay to influence a perfect region record to close the season.
The Green Wave, a No. 4 seed in the state playoffs, was upset by No. 13 Spartanburg 43-34 in the opening round. Although its final 7-5 record indicates close competition, only two games were decided by one touchdown or less.
Bishop England graduated several critical players from last year’s dominating group, including leader Griffie Loy and offensive superhero DeAngelo Stephenson. Loy could be the toughest to replace because of his playmaking abilities at linebacker and fullback, but more importantly, his leadership qualities.
The Battling Bishops rallied behind their senior’s pep talks and now must find someone else besides coach John Cantey to find accountability and passion. This time last year, Cantey used Sertoma as the venue to discover his starting quarterback. He wrestled between two seniors then, and he’s a similar position now, choosing between Reed Fosberry and Jack Wilson.
Cantey used both quarterbacks anyway last season, but only because an injury to his first choice for starting quarterback caused him to reach down the depth chart. Both players performed well and accounted for 219 rushing attempts, 1,183 yards and 18 rushing touchdowns.