Marlboro County quarterback Elliott Alford will never forget his previous two games at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium.
He hopes his final stop there for Saturday's 62nd annual SCADA North-South All-Star Football Game produces happier memories.
As a junior, Alford led the Bulldogs in one of the most memorable games in the stadium's history -- a 51-50 double-overtime loss to host Myrtle Beach in the Lower State championship game. Two weeks ago, he brought the undefeated Bulldogs back for a rematch and suffered a 40-13 defeat.
"Both of them were tough, but the first one was worse because I felt like I could have made one more play and we would have went to the state," said Alford, who threw for 403 yards and four touchdowns in the first meeting but misfired on the game-deciding 2-point conversion pass. "This year we wanted it just as bad, we just didn't play our best."
Alford was almost always at his best this season, passing for 1,439 yards and 21 touchdowns to only six interceptions while also rushing for 497 yards and seven scores. His ability to run and throw has made him a hot prospect among colleges that utilize the spread offense.
Unfortunately for him, many schools are recruiting him as an "athlete," including Coastal Carolina, he said, but FCS powerhouse Appalachian State appears to be the front-runner because it wants him to play his desired position.
"I really want to play quarterback in college and a lot of schools are recruiting me as an athlete," Alford said. "But Appalachian State looks like a good fit because they want me to play quarterback and they run the spread. They have a great program, and I liked the campus when I went there to visit."
While in Boone, N.C., Alford got to talk to another Palmetto State native who had a similar recruiting situation. Armanti Edwards, who will likely win his second Walter Payton Award (the FCS's equivalent of the Heisman Trophy) this year, also went to ASU to stay true to his position.
`"I talked to him and he told me wherever I go I should try to play quarterback," Alford said. "It worked out for him. I hope it does for me."
Myrtle Beach's Steven Cobb and Morgan Byrd aren't the only players here this week still feeling the sting of being upset in a state championship game.
Byrnes, which had been ranked No. 2 in the nation during the season and ended it as No. 2 in the state, suffered a 28-17 defeat at the hands of Dorman in Saturday's Class AAAA, Division I state final. It was a tough way to go out for Rebels quarterback Chas Dodd and defensive end Brandon Willis.
Dorman offensive lineman Jacob Morris said he hasn't bragged or boasted about the victory. Instead, he welcomes the chance to play with his state-title rivals.
"I'm still sore. It was a hard-hitting game. Everybody's been nice and said, 'Y'all deserve it,' " Morris said. "It's a great feeling but you put it aside this week. Byrnes has a great team, but now we're on the same team and we're already bonded."
The adjustment may have taken a little longer for the Byrnes players, who were trying to win the school's 10th state championship.
"It was hard because we didn't play very well, but you've got to give credit to Dorman," said Willis. "But now it's time to move on to bigger things."
The Byrnes duo already has plans for bigger things. Dodd has verbally committed to play at Rutgers while Willis has committed to Tennessee and will play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl next month in San Antonio, Texas.
Clemson, South Carolina, Virginia Tech, Georgia -- those are some of the college jackets worn by scouts who used to line the fence around the practice fields for the SCADA North-South All-Star Game.
But this week, for the second straight year, the colors and colleges have dramatically changed -- Newberry, Benedict and Tusculum.
That's due to a new NCAA rule that forbids Football Bowl Subdivision and Football Championship Division schools from using all-star games as recruiting trips. That's been good news for smaller programs, but bad news for players hoping to catch a big school's eye.
"Coaches from Division II teams can attend practices," said S.C.-based recruiting analyst Phil Kornblut. "This rule ... certainly hurts some kids who can use these practices to impress coaches and earn a (big-school) offer. It's a rule that coaches have tried to get overturned, but to no avail."
Ironically, the rule was adopted to prevent basketball coaches from hitting the all-star game circuit, Kornblut added, just as another new rule redefining a "prospect" as a seventh-grader instead of a freshman was originally aimed at the hoops crowd. Football players are paying the price.