High School Football

Offense-Defense All-American Bowl considering other venues

Coming off its most successful All-American Bowl yet, there's no guarantee the Offense-Defense annual game is going to be in Myrtle Beach next season.

O-D bowl director Artie Gigantino boasted Monday that his game - one of three nationally broadcast high school football all-star events - surpassed the Under Armour All-American game this year. The talent level was higher and the number of people at the game was at an all-time high.

Combined with 580 youth all-American players who showed up for games the next day, the Dec. 31 event was by all accounts a major success.

Still, Gigantino is listening to pitches from other cities that may be able to help him achieve his ultimate goal.

"You're always looking to get more visibility to the game," he said. "I think one of the things we have to do is get it on a network next year, whether it's CBS or FOX. We're aggressively pursuing that.

"This year, we're starting very early. That's a very good thing for us as a company. We're always going to keep your options open."

Now may be the opportune time for Offense-Defense to work itself into a long-term plan for two reasons.

First, one of the primary knocks on the O-D All-American game has been its perceived instability. The Under Armour and Army All-American Games have major sponsors.

And while the Under Armour game is actually newer than its O-D counterpart, it opened in 2008 with a major bang - an ESPN television contract.

The Army game, meanwhile, has been the gold standard. It's been held in San Antonio for more than a decade and brings with it an NBC contract.

Therefore, when the bluest of blue chip high school football players were deciding which of the three to attend (and often use it as a venue to make their college choices known) in recent years, the O-D Bowl had often lost out.

Gigantino, though, says that's no longer the case.

"I think we had better players and coaches than the Under Armor game," he said. "From a technical standpoint, I think we made tremendous strides."

Gigantino cited eight players from the game following the 2009 season starting at major colleges as true freshmen. And he says players from the most recent game - all of whom he said will sign with power-conference schools - could double that tally.

The O-D started in Miami before transferring to Conway three years ago and ultimately winding up Myrtle Beach two years ago. The aforementioned instability can be partially attributed to the game's search for further growth.

At the same time, the organization toyed with the idea of moving this year's game to Conway High School before ultimately sticking at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium.

Gigantino said Monday that other cities, including Honolulu, San Diego, Dallas, Atlanta and Charlotte, have inquired about hosting the game. And he said there's no telling when the decision for next year's game could be.

"There's so many feelers. I wish it was tomorrow," he said. "The sooner the better. ... Where the game will be, I don't know. Hopefully, it's Myrtle Beach."

Gigantino added that there's a "sexy" factor of bringing all these players and their families to Myrtle Beach for the game. But more than likely, a bigger market and accompanying bigger stadium would help Gigantino's chances of getting his game on a major network.

It's another set of pros and cons Gigantino and Co. are weighing as they plan their next all-American game, be it on the Grand Strand or elsewhere.

Hoops event on Strand

The inaugural Swanny's Prep School Tournament will take place Saturday and Sunday at J. Bryan Floyd Community Center in North Myrtle Beach.

The event will encompass 16 teams full of players using a post-graduate high school year in order to improve their game, grades or both.

The tournament will feature several local players and other athletes who will dot some major-conference and mid-major program rosters in the future.

Five local high school alums - Greg Wilson (North Myrtle Beach), Mike Hall (St. James), Patrick Jenkins (Loris) and Hemingway's Shaquille Wells and Suntrell Flagler - will be participating in the event, which begins Saturday afternoon and concludes Sunday.

Additionally, Tennessee signee Chris Jones and future Purdue Boilermaker Jacob Lawson (Oak Ridge Military) will be playing.

Several other signees from schools such as Appalachian State, Western Carolina and South Florida will be suiting up for various schools. The tournament will also feature many other players who are still deciding on which NCAA Division-I school they'll ink with in the late signing period.

Tickets for high school and middle school students are $3 and a full-day pass for others is $8. Those 12 and under are admitted free. Two-day passes are available for $12.

The tournament has been orchestrated by Pawleys Island resident and JucoJunction.com founder Bret Swanson, who also runs Swanny's Roundball Review, a recruiting service of junior college and prep school players around the country.

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