By DENNIS BRUNSON firstname.lastname@example.org
Sumter High School has been a stout regular-season team in Mark Barnes’ four seasons as football head coach. The Gamecocks have won three region title and barely missed on a fourth in 2017.
However, SHS has yet to get past the second round of the state playoffs. Last year, Sumter coughed up a halftime lead against Byrnes, eventually falling 33-23 in the second round of the 5A state playoffs.
In order to better prepare his team for what might await it in the playoffs, Barnes has put together a murderer’s row for preseason.
“We’re trying to scrimmage better people,” said Barnes, whose squad went 10-1 last year. “As you’re well aware our scrimmages are Dorman, Fort Dorchester and Dutch Fork.”
That’s Dorman, which reached the third round last year, Fort Dorchester, which reached the second round, and eventual state champion Dutch Fork.
Sumter will travel to Roebuck on Thursday for a 9 a.m. scrimmage against Dorman and go to Summerville on Monday for a 9 a.m. scrimmage against Fort Dorchester.
Dutch Fork will come to Memorial Stadium on Friday, Aug. 16, to face Sumter in the middle scrimmage of the Sumter Sertoma Jamboree. It is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m.
Barnes said those scrimmages will give his team a good idea of what it needs to work on as it moves into the season.
“We can’t control as much who we play in the regular season,” Barnes said. “We’ve got region (IV) games, we’ve got non-region games – we’ve got to play Crestwood, we’ve got to play Lakewood (Sumter School District rivals) – then we have travel issues (for scheduling).
As head coach, I try to make sure we get experience against really good people early in the year, in the preseason, so we know who we are. Every time you’re involved in one of those games (like Byrnes), you’re more likely to win that game the next time you play in one.”
Along with the Gamecocks playing Dutch Fork, the Sumter Sertoma Jamboree will have a different look to it for both Crestwood and Lakewood.
Crestwood will open the jamboree by taking on 5A Irmo at 7 p.m. Lakewood will close the jamboree against Lee Central at 9 p.m.
Most of the local football teams will be playing scrimmages or jamborees either on Thursday or Friday.
Manning and Scott’s Branch will both be playing in the Willie Jeffries Classic in Orangeburg on Thursday.
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