Coastal Carolina looking to get in on S.C. football title-game action

bbyers@heraldonline.comDecember 12, 2008 

MYRTLE BEACH -- There was a report in Thursday morning's Myrtle Beach Sun News that representatives from Conway's Coastal Carolina University have expressed an interest in hosting a portion of the state championship football games.

Which portion and how many games has not been decided, but according to the report, South Carolina High School League Executive director Jerome Singleton said he's open to any proposals to host future championship games.

Most years they are played in Columbia at South Carolina's Williams-Brice Stadium. But last weekend, with the exception of the two Class A games, the title games were played at Clemson's Memorial Stadium. Class A played its games the day after Thanksgiving at S.C. State in Orangeburg.

South Pointe won the Class AAAA Division II championship on Friday night with a 35-14 win over Northwestern.

On Saturday, Dillon led off the day with a 7-6 win over Pageland Central for the Class AA championship, Byrnes beat Sumter 31-21 for the Class AAAA Division I title and Myrtle Beach capped the day with a 31-21 win over Chester in Class AAA.

The matchups were ideal. The SCHSL got a great deal from Clemson, which opened its arms to the teams, the fans and the media. Clemson went to the state legislature and requested that the HSL not automatically use USC for the games and to bring them to the Upstate.

As part of the deal to get the games, Clemson agreed to let the HSL use Memorial Stadium for free and allow free parking in all of its lots. Parking in the Columbia Fairgrounds across from Williams-Brice Stadium was $10 per car.

Clemson was not hosting for the first time. There were several Big 16 -- now Division I --championship games played there in the mid '90s. In 1993, Northwestern beat Gaffney 2-0 there. In 1996, the last game at Clemson before this year, Spartanburg beat Rock Hill.

But moving to Coastal's Brooks Stadium, host of the SCADA North-South All-Star Game for five seasons before it moved back to Myrtle Beach High School this year, doesn't come without its drawbacks.

There was a concern that 10,000 fewer fans attended last weekend's championship games. Brooks Stadium seats 7,300. In comparison, Rock Hill's District Three Stadium seats close to 10,000.

And there's also the chance that Coastal's football team could be hosting a playoff game that weekend.

Those are factors that will be addressed if discussions progress. Singleton told the Sun News that the HSL has mandated a February deadline and hopes announce the 2009 sites in March.

• DRUM ROLL, PLEASE: Northwestern defensive end Hakeem Adams is playing outside linebacker on what appears to be an extremely talented North defense.

The players on that side came together so quickly, Adams said, that the majority of practice time has been spent on getting the offense ready.

Adams is a delightful young man and has spent a lot of time with South Pointe's DeVonte Holloman this week. Don't be surprised, everyone likes Adams and he always has good things to say.

For example:

"We've been doing a lot of swimming in the indoor pool at night. A bunch of us get together and go down and we have a lot of fun."

"Last night (Wednesday), me, South Pointe's Charles Holmes and some other players decided to walk to the end of the pier. When we got there, the wind started blowing and it began pouring down rain. We got scared and took off running. Didn't slow down until we got back to the hotel."

"Man, have we been doing some eating this week. We've eaten so much that I probably won't go out to eat for a while when I get back home."

"A lot of guys really get into trading helmet decals. I look at that as a fashion statement. I'm not into fashion. I'm into football."

"Lewisville's Isaiah Johnson and Clinton's Matt Ligon are all into trading decals and have more than anybody on our team. I gave out mine, but didn't trade.

"Chesnee's is the most popular. It has white wings trimmed in yellow that wrap around the front. It's my favorite, too."

"The first day we got here, our coaches told us when we ran into the South players to keep walking and don't say anything. They said besides the MVP awards, there are two trophies -- one for the winner and one for the team that shows the most respect. We want both.''

• TURF ENOUGH: To answer a question that surfaced back in August, Rock Hill's District Three Stadium is not the only high school field in the state with artificial turf as originally thought.

Myrtle Beach High School had it installed during the offseason and played on it this year.

Rock Hill running back Jerante Hood said he can tell the difference between the turf here at Doug Shaw Stadium and the plastic grass back home.

"The turf here is a lot softer,'' Hood said. "I can tell by running and falling at practice. This was a big surprise for me and the Northwestern players who played on turf all season. We had no idea they had it here.

"I like grass better. It's easier to cut on grass. On the turf, there were times my feet went out from under me. But the upside is you can run faster on turf.''

The North and South teams have been alternating practicing in the stadium, where Saturday's game will be played. They shared it Wednesday afternoon, with each team getting 50 yards of space, because it started raining. There is no mud on turf and it drains well.

Hood is in a tailback rotation that includes Lewisville's Johnson, Williston-Elko's Josh Epps and Clinton's Ligon.

"We have a good backfield,'' Hood said. "Epps is big; me, Isaiah and Matt are small. All of us are fast.

"I'm having some pain in my right ankle and can't run like I want to. I injured it in our second game against Irmo, but I'll be out there giving everything I have on Saturday.''

• CHANGE: Heavy rain Wednesday night and Thursday morning forced the teams inside for what have been their final practices before Saturday's game.

The North practiced at St. James High School, the South at North Myrtle Beach HS. And good thing the coaches didn't want to practice again Thursday afternoon.

The wind again picked up and was bending the Palmetto trees on the hotel grounds. It rained hard, so hard at times that it was hard to see outside from your room. And the sky got dark as tornado watches ran across the bottom of TVs that were turned on.

Barry Byers • 329-4099 | bbyers@heraldonline.com

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