Friday night lights turned back on
All three Hampton County high school football teams began their seasons at home August 18.
It was a busy night for athletes, fans and sports photographers in Hampton County August 18 as each of the county’s three high school football teams took to their home fields to begin their 2017-18 seasons. All three teams took to the gridiron 30-mintues later than scheduled due to a heat advisory; games began at 8 pm.
The Wade Hampton High School Red Devils varsity football team hosted Manning Friday night and fans were treated to a nail biting non-conference game. Although the Red Devils lost after three overtimes by a final score of 39-33, if not for a penalty in the final moments of regulation the team would have been a short extra-point kick away from victory.
A touchdown by a Red Devil runner in the final seconds of the fourth quarter tied the game at 27 and sent the crowd into joyous celebration. Cheers quickly turned to jeers as a referee threw the yellow flag for the player spiking the football following the lengthy TD run. The subsequent extra-point kick, which was lengthened by the penalty, went wide and sent the game into its first of three overtime periods.
“I believe they really learned a lot this week,” said WHHS Head Coach and Athletics Director Jerry Brown. “Many of the mistakes made were uncharacteristic of the team from what we have seen during pre-season practice.”
According to the head coach, a majority of the mistakes made by WHHS athletes can be attributed to nerves and excitement and will be easily corrected during practice this week. Brown hopes his athletes will treat the season-opening loss as a learning experience and apply what was learned against Manning next week as they travel to take on Allendale-Fairfax.
Brown added that after losing their first-string QB to an injury during a pre-season scrimmage, he was impressed by the talent for the position displayed by back-up quarterback Adam Creswell, who also led the team in rushing.
The head coach began his first season with the team Friday and wished to thank the community for their support of the Red Devils during the season opener.
Estill High School Fighting Gators
The Estill High School Fighting Gators varsity football team battled muggy conditions Friday and went to war with their long-standing rival, Allendale-Fairfax High School, during the first game of their 2017-18 season. Led by veteran Head Coach J.C. Threatt, the young Gators showed moments of great potential during the non-conference home game, although they fell to their rivals by a final score of 22-0.
According to Threatt, a fresh crop of freshman athletes, who played in their first high school football games that night, are in the midst of adjusting to the increased speed and physical demands of high school play in comparison to the Saturday youth football league pace.
“A lot of the kids [freshmen] are coming straight from Saturday morning football, and there is a big difference between Saturday mornings and Friday night lights,” said Threatt. “As long as we can avoid injuries, I think we will be okay this season; we just cannot afford to have any injuries.”
“It seems to be going like it does every year,” said Threatt of the start of football season in Estill. “We start off slow and battle cramps and fatigue early in the season due to a lack of conditioning [during the offseason].”
The head coach went on to say although his team struggled during the season opener, he expects his team to quickly learn from their mistakes and hone their skills during future practices.
The Fighting Gators will be back in action Aug. 25 as they travel to take on Ridgeland-Hardeeville during a 7:30 p.m. matchup.
Patrick Henry Academy Patriots
Led by Head Coach Mike McCoy, the PHA Patriots took to Cone Hill to begin their season of 8-man football Friday against Holly Hill. The two teams play in different divisions; PHA plays in SCISA Division II and Holly Hill in SCISA Division I.
Although he did not participate in football last year for PHA, Kennedy Fairey played at the QB and DB positions Friday night and led his team to a 26-20 win over the Raiders of Holly Hill. Fairey began the game by running back a first quarter punt for a 68-yard touchdown and proceeded to throw several more TDs in the remaining quarters. As well as racking-up 97 yard passing, 81 yards rushing and two touchdowns on offense, Fairey also tallied six tackles, an interception and a pass deflection.
"It was great having Kennedy back. He is a great athlete that works hard and his great instincts help take our team to a higher level, just because of him,” said McCoy of his QB.
As well as Fairey, several other PHA athletes had strong nights on offense. Garrett Griner rushed for 10 yards on three carries, Kyle Jarrell had 20 yards on five carries, Batten Bostick rushed for 79 yards on 14 carries, Hunter Spielman had two receptions for 97 yards and two touchdowns and Jackson Wiggins made a two-point conversion reception.
"We had a lot of step-up in a big way in this game," McCoy stated.
On defense, Daniel Hauptmann led the Patriots with 12 tackles and a QB sack, followed by Griner with seven tackles, Batten Bostick with five tackles and four pass deflections, Clayton Richards with five tackles, and Neil Chassereau with four tackles.
"This was kind of like the war of attrition when both sides were managing the line-ups depending on who was able to go on the field and not giving in to cramps; it really helped us in the fourth quarter," said the head coach.
The Raiders lost their leading tackler on defense during a great deal of the 4th quarter; that was when the Patriots scored their touchdown in the second half to put the score at 26-20.
"This was a great team effort, a great team win. Now that doesn't mean in any respect that our team is even close where we need to be; some of our key players still are not in shape, and we are still growing in a lot of areas, playing several with limited varsity experience, " McCoy stated.
McCoy added that although many of his athletes are giving there all on the field, many are also struggling to get in shape for the season. As well as the need to condition, many newer athletes are still attempting to learn the game and pace of action.
"Holly Hill is a solid football program, always well coached, their players are classy, and I thought it would be a long shot to say the least that we would be in the game with this program, considering the turnover we have on the field from last year. I have never been more pleasantly surprised by an outcome here at Patrick Henry,” said the head coach.