By DENNIS BRUNSON | firstname.lastname@example.org
It all becomes real on Friday.
After a summer of camps and 7-on-7 competitions and a couple of weeks of scrimmages and jamborees this month, the 2019 high school football season opens up this week. All seven of the local South Carolina High School League teams will open in Week Zero along with two of the South Carolina Independent School Association schools.
Sumter will open its season on the road, taking on Rock Hill in District Three Stadium. The Gamecocks are coming off a 10-1 season in which they won the Region IV-5A title and went undefeated in the regular season before losing in the second round of the state playoffs.
Rock Hill is coming off an 8-3 season in which it won the III-5A crown. Sumter, which is ranked seventh in preseason in 5A in the S.C. Prep Media Football Polls, won last year’s meeting 33-23, also a season opener.
Crestwood will travel to Florence to face West Florence at Memorial Stadium. The Knights are coming off a 2-9 season while West Florence went 11-2, won the Region VI-5A title and reached the quarterfinals of the state playoffs.
West Florence beat Crestwood 59-47 in the opener for both teams last season.
Lakewood will begin its third season under head coach Larry Cornelius at home against Colleton County at J. Frank Baker Stadium. The Gators are coming off a 3-6 year, while Colleton was 4-9 but reached the second round of the 4A state playoffs.
Lakewood defeated Colleton County 35-19 in the season opener for both teams last year.
Two new coaches with very familiar faces will be on the sidelines when Manning plays host to Scott’s Branch at Ramsey Stadium. Reggie Kennedy, the former Sumter High head coach, will make his debut with the Monarchs, while Leonard Johnson, who led Scott’s Branch to a pair of state titles, is back for his second go-around with the Eagles.
Manning went 7-4 last year, while the Eagles went 3-7. The Monarchs won 28-0 in last year’s season-opening win in a game shortened to just less than one half due to a thunderstorm.
Lee Central will have a tough season opener as it plays host to Wade Hampton of Hampton. Wade Hampton is ranked eighth among 3A schools in the preseason after going 10-3 last year and reaching the state semifinals.
The 2A Stallions were 2-8 last year, opening their season with a 24-7 loss to Wade Hampton.
East Clarendon will open on the road against Timmonsville. The 2A Wolverines are coming off a 2-7 season, while 1A Timmonsville went 5-6. The Whirlwinds beat EC 14-12 in last year’s season opener.
Robert E. Lee, which reached the 2A semifinals last year, will be facing SCISA 3A school Heathwood Hall in Columbia. REL, coming off an 8-4 season, is ranked fourth in the preseason poll. It defeated Heathwood, which went 4-7 last season, 21-7 in the season opener.
Thomas Sumter will travel to Kingstree to face Williamsburg Academy. TSA is coming off a 2-8 season in which it reached the 1A state playoffs. Williamsburg went 3-6 and did not make the 2A playoffs.
Wilson Hall, Laurence Manning Academy and Clarendon Hall all jump into the fray next week.
Wilson Hall and LMA will jump right into 3A play. The Barons will travel to the aforementioned Heathwood Hall, while LMA will open on the road against Augusta Christian School.
Clarendon Hall will open its season at home against defending 8-man state champion Beaufort Academy. Beaufort was ranked first in the preseason S.C. Media Prep Football Poll, and the Saints are ranked second.
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