The 2018 Touchstone Energy Cooperatives Bowl North-South All-Star Football Game brings some of the best senior football players from across the state to the Grand Strand for an on-field exhibition and a week of festivities.
Checking in to hotels over the weekend, players from the Upper State and Lower State make up a field of talented players who are able to extend their high school football careers by a game and represent their schools and state on the field.
“It’s a big honor. It’s something that people in my hometown are excited about and that the kids look up to you for,” said Braden Gravely, a member of the North team from Pickens High School. “This game is a big deal and it’s a great honor to have been selected to play.”
For many of the players, coming off a playoff run, the game has them teaming up with former adversaries for the good of their new team.
“A great part of this is meeting all of these guys from across the state and teaming up with guys that I’ve played against for a couple of years,” Gravely said at practice Friday. “I’m from Pickens High School, so there are some guys from my region and that we’ve faced. It’s cool to be able to team up with some of these good players and get to see how good we can be.”
Locally, players like J.B. Favorite and Marcus Grissett of Myrtle Beach, Kenney Solomon of Socastee, Trey Davis of Waccamaw, and Janaz Sumpter of Carvers Bay are serving as Grand Strand ambassadors to their teammates.
“We’ve tried to come together and work as a team, but it’s tough when you only get a few days to work together,” Sumpter said. “A lot of the boys have been to Myrtle Beach, so they aren’t too caught up in the city and we’ve been able to focus on the field. This defense looks good, we’ve got a lot of fast guys and we can make some stops. We want to show out on Saturday.”
For Sumpter and Solomon, the game allows them to focus on one position, rather than playing all over the field like they each did for their respective high schools. Each is playing defensive back for the South team.
“It was a lot to play all over the field in high school and didn’t give me a lot of time to focus on the smaller skills at any position,” Sumpter said. “I tried to give my team everything I had on offense, defense and special teams (in high school). Now, I’m able to focus on playing defensive back, where college coaches are looking at me, and I can work on getting better at the intricacies of the position. It’s a great opportunity for me.”
Both Sumpter and Gravely said the experience in the community has been just as rewarding as the spirited practices they’ve had all week. The highlight for both players was a shopping spree with local children to Target, where they were able to help the children pick out toys and clothes for Christmas.
“We’ve done some things in the community, like taking some local kids on a shopping trip to Target (for Christmas) and that was pretty cool and rewarding,” Gravely said.
“Helping the kids out has been the greatest experience. I went shopping with a little girl who was so appreciative of everything,” Sumpter said. “She wasn’t going to be able to have much of a Christmas from her parents, so everything we were able to do with her was a blessing. It meant so much to her, me, and the community.”
While the collaborative aspect of things in community service has been nice, by Friday the players had shifted into game mode, preparing to take on their opponent on Saturday.
“This means a lot to me, for the coaches to put me in a game like this with great players from across the state is an honor,” Sumpter said. “Having said that, I didn’t come here to lose. (This game) means a lot to me, the North has won a few in a row and we want to stop that streak.”
The 2018 Touchstone Energy Cooperatives Bowl North-South All-Star Football Game will take place at Brooks Stadium on the campus of Coastal Carolina University on Saturday at noon.