Steady rainfall in no way lessened the excitement of the Clover High School football team’s Midnight Madness.
At one minute past midnight Friday, Aug.1, Blue Eagle football players, dressed in regular-season attire, burst through an entrance formed by cheerleaders and students before stepping onto newly-installed artificial turf at the lighted CHS practice field.
The team was greeted by a glittering fireworks display, upbeat music blaring through speakers and energetic fans in large numbers.
“It was a fantastic turnout, considering the weather,” said second-year head coach Chad Smith.
Most of the adults in attendance brought an umbrella to shield themselves from the elements.
For the students and cheerleaders, it didn’t seem to matter. They were having a blast, regardless of the conditions.
CHS senior cheerleader captains Kelly Fernandes and Haleigh O’Donegan are ready for the season to begin.
“There’s been new excitement for the football team at our school since the arrival of coach Smith,” Fernandes said. “It’s spread throughout the school.”
“Last year, even when the team was losing, they played with more energy than in the past,” she said.
Both agreed that Blue Eagle football is on the upswing.
“We are excited and so are the students,” Fernandes said.
Smith said the new turf at the practice field served its purpose for Midnight Madness.
“The old field would not have held up under the conditions,” Smith said.
Midnight Madness continued even after the Blue Eagles exited the field between 1:30 and 2 a.m.
Players headed to the CHS gym to work out and to focus on the basic fundamentals of the double-wing offensive scheme.
“It’s been incredible,” safety Coby Hamblen said of the Blue Eagles’ offseason preparations. “We’re ready to go.”
Tight end Barrett Courtwright echoed his teammate’s sentiments.
“Everybody’s worked hard in the off season,” he said. “We’re glad the preseason is here.”
Harrison Gibson, an offensive tackle, is keenly aware of the responsibilities of the offensive line, which has four seniors returning.
“We are sure the offensive front will be a strength, he said. “We have to open things up for the double-wing to be successful.”
Smith lauded the Blue Eagle players for an off-season commitment that’s carried over to the preseason.
“Our kids are buying into what we want them to do,” he said. “We have two scrimmages and a jamboree that will help us prepare for the regular season.
“The key to success for the coming season is to show improvement every rep at every practice.”
The Blue Eagles scrimmage at 9 a.m. Friday at Broome, and travel to Chapman Aug. 14 for a 9 a.m. scrimmage.
The CHS football team will compete in the Pickens Jamboree at 8 p.m. Aug. 15.
One week later, Aug. 22, the Blue Eagles open the 2014 season at Westside.
Next will be a short trip across the border to face Forestview before the first home game of the season Sept. 5 against Westwood, followed by a home game against White Knoll Sept. 12 at Memorial Stadium.
A trip to Blythewood and an open date will precede the first Region 3-AAAA game Oct. 3 against Fort Mill at home.
All regular season games start at 7:30 p.m.