Scott Earley doesn’t know what it took for Mother Nature to cooperate, but he is certainly thankful.
Each of the past two years, the annual Touchstone Energy Cooperatives North-South Bowl was played later than originally scheduled due to devastating acts of nature. Thankfully, the 2017 edition will go on as planned this Saturday.
“Let’s just say we’re thankful,” said Earley, who serves as Westside football coach in addition to co- director of the North-South game. “The past two years were rough.”
Two years ago, historic flooding on the Grand Strand forced the game’s postponement. The following year, Hurricane Matthew sent the state’s sports calendar for a twirl, pushing the North-South game back a week.
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Each weather event caused its own share of inconvenience. Earley will argue, however, the latter was more costly, being played a day after the semifinal round of the state football playoffs.
“Hopefully this time around we can do a little better than we did (last year),” he said.
Rain remains a concern, though, as the area should receive a healthy dose of the wet stuff through Saturday.
In 1947, the game’s primary emphasis was to showcase the Palmetto State’s top gridiron talent. Event organizers these days do plenty of that throughout the week, in addition to providing a bowl-like experience for players leading up to the contest.
Each year, 88 of the state’s top players are selected to participate in the all-star game. In addition to practices, meals and meetings, the group also engages in a bevy of recreational activities.
All stars or all-stars?
South Pointe defensive back B.J. Davis didn’t hesitate when asked if his high school squad could hang with his North squad teammates.
“South Pointe … no doubt,” he said. “I don’t see anyone beating us.”
Looking back at the Stallions’ resume the past four years, it’s pretty tough to argue with him.
During the stretch, South Pointe won 55 of its 60 games played, and claimed four consecutive state titles.
But it’s not as if the team only took only the best South Carolina had to offer. It also holds victories over nationally-respected programs the like of Buford (Ga.), Mallard Creek (N.C.) and Shelby (N.C.).
South Pointe’s average margin of victory was just shy of 37 points this season, en route to a 15-0 record. For such dominant play, the Stallions finished the season ranked No. 4 in USA Today’s Super 25 and ninth according to MaxPreps XCellent 25 poll.
With that chapter now completed, Davis and fellow South Pointe standout Steven Gilmore are focused on the opportunity at hand.
“This is new competition, how it will be at the next level. It’s going to help me out a lot,” Gilmore said. “... It’s the same thing as college, it seems to be the same type of atmosphere. So it’s good to experience the situation.”
In addition to playing top talent, Davis said he is most savoring the opportunity to build new relationships, some that may last a lifetime.
“It’s very important to build relationships,” he said. “You get to know people, find out how other people play and you just go out and play together, (and) win this game.
The opportunity to bask in a successful season can wait for a select few players taking part in this week’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives North-South Bowl.
Of the 88 players slated to participate in this Saturday’s all-star game, 11 saw their teams make it to state title tilts.
Class 2A and A played on Friday at Benedict College’s Charles W. Johnson Stadium. The other three classifications were contested Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium at the University of South Carolina.
For Abbeville’s J.R. Rapley, the end of his competitive career was a joyous one, helping the hometown Panthers to their third straight state championship. There was no time to celebrate, however, hastily preparing for a week away from home.
“I had one day Saturday to rest, Sunday I was back on the road,” said Abbeville’s J.R. Rapley. “It was definitely a change.”
In addition to Rapley, Abbeville is being represented at the game by coach Jamie Nickles and defensive back Kentavious Rayford.
As for Jeblonski Green, he is the sole member of a 15-0 Lamar squad receiving an opportunity to play in this week’s North-South game.
“It’s an honor to be around people that have the same passion as you, and love to play this game,” Green said. “(The turnaround) was alright, because you’re getting a different feel (from that of your hometown) and getting to know different people. It isn’t too bad because we are starting to bond and get right for this one game.”