The Conway National Bank Kickoff Classic can’t say it’s one of the longest continually running jamborees in the state after the event was canceled last year.
But the CNB – which started 25 years ago – is gearing up for what many consider to still be one of the finest preseason events in South Carolina. Be it the promotion of the event or the fact that it is restricted to area teams, and this Friday’s Kickoff Classic will again serve as notice that the football season is upon us.
“The administration felt bad for us because of our investment,” CNB’s Mitch Godwin said during Tuesday’s Kickoff Classic luncheon and news conference. “It’s strictly in their hands. When there’s weather like that, we back off.
“They were very apologetic toward the bank.”
The 2013 event was scrapped after rain and lightning moved into the area late in the afternoon. Although the Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium Field turf itself wasn’t threatened, player safety and a potentially smaller crowd were cited as reason enough to take a year off for the first time.
Within days, organizers elected to keep it at Myrtle Beach for this season instead of the typical flip back to Conway.
Godwin said he and the other organizers will again leave any potential weather decisions for this or subsequent seasons in the hands of the the host school.
Differing schemes, faces
Several of the 20-minutes scrimmages match opponents of differing styles. For instance, the normally pass-oriented Myrtle Beach team will be facing an Aynor opponent that threw the ball 67 times in 12 games last season. Those two teams will meet in the final game of the evening.
Socastee and Waccamaw will kick off the action at 6 p.m. The other games include Green Sea Floyds vs. St. James; North Myrtle Beach vs. Conway; and Carolina Forest vs. Loris.
Six of the teams will be starting new quarterbacks, and three new head coaches will be in place. North Myrtle Beach’s Blair Hardin and Carolina Forest’s Marc Morris are new to the area and the CNB.
However, St. James interim head coach Robby Brown drew on his experience as an assistant at three Horry County programs.
“Whether I was at Conway or Carolina Forest [or St. James], the kids loved this,” he said.
Risk vs. reward
While all of the teams in Friday’s CNB appreciate a game-like atmosphere, some of the coaches are more timid about leaving in their best players too long.
The decision to play or not play starters is not always a luxury every coach has.
“Our top guys will be in so we can find a rhythm and evaluate,” Hardin said. “I never try to win a scrimmage; I never have. It’s all about execution. I want to see guys do well, but it’s going to be more geared toward North Myrtle Beach.”
While Georgetown is not a member of the CNB group, multiple coaches have already cited the Bulldogs’ 2013 injury-plagued season as enough incentive to pull starters early in events like Fridays. Georgetown coach Bradley Adams has already said his starters will get only one series in a scrimmage Friday and won’t play at all in another one Saturday.
In recent memory, at least one team is affected by an injury caused during a preseason scrimmage. And especially with the regular season coming one week after the CNB, some coaches could display more caution.
The CNB luncheon is one of the few times each year the area’s coaches truly cut loose and rib each other.
This season, though, it wasn’t Conway’s Chuck Jordan dropping the gem of the afternoon. Aynor’s Jody Jenerette took a shot at Mickey Wilson, referencing players transferring to Myrtle Beach from other county schools.
“It looks like we’ve got the Horry County All-Stars the first game,” Jenerette said. “It will be good for our kids. I’ve never had one sign with Myrtle Beach.”