Coach Bobby Carroll likes to play the best non-region teams he can to prepare the York Comprehensive High School football team for Region 3-AAAA and playoff challenges.
Friday’s season-opening opponent, the Sumter Fighting Gamecocks, fit the bill as a top-flight team.
The Region 6-AAAA Gamecocks advanced to the Big 16 state finals last season.
Kickoff for Friday’s early-season showdown is 7:30 p.m. at the YCHS stadium, where a large crowd is expected.
Carroll said he is aware of Sumter’s emergence as a 4A power last season.
“Sumter is the kind of non-region team we want to play,” he said. “It’s a great matchup for the fans.”
Sumter finished in second place in the region last season before taking its game to a deep playoff run.
The Gamecocks opened the 2013 season by defeating Summerville 14-7. Next came a 31-28 win against Hillcrest and a 41-27 win against Mauldin before Sumter shut out West Florence 16-0.
After defeating Wando 24-12, the Gamecocks closed the regular season in impressive fashion, pounding Conway 31-6, Lakewood 45-0, Richland Northeast 30-17 and Carolina Forest of Myrtle Beach 51-12.
The Cougars got a taste of what quality opposition is like in last week’s Bank of York Scrimmage, outscoring Spartanburg and big-time running back Tavien Feaster 41-35 in a high-scoring contest.
York fumbled the first play, which led to a 7-0 Viking lead.
“We had three early turnovers and the first quarter was sloppy on both sides of the ball,” Carroll said after the scrimmage. “The defense gave up some big plays, but made adjustments and had some big stops.
“I am proud of our kids. We learned a lot tonight.”
“In the words of our defensive coordinator, David Prince, we want to put the best 11 players on the field,” Carroll said.
Spartanburg and York traded scores on the game’s first three possessions.
Trailing 14-7, the Cougars tied the score when defensive stalwart Patch Adams blocked a punt near the goal line. Junior teammate Deivonne Clark picked up the loose ball and got into the end zone.
Senior quarterback Deshaw Andrews, a 6-foot-4, 250-pound all-region candidate who has received interest from N.C. State and other schools, lifted a 27-yard scoring toss to receiver Daurice Simpson, giving the Cougars a 21-14 lead.
Andrews found senior wideout Kyron Schrouder for a touchdown throw covering 74 yards.
York padded its lead in the in the second half on another Andrews-to-Simpson connection, this one covering 78 yards.
Simpson, who also affected the game as a punt returner, said after the Bank of York Scrimmage, “We needed to play a team like Spartanburg to get us ready for the season opener.”
Simpson is providing leadership along the way: “I’m helping the first-year receivers,” he said.
Simpson scored another third-quarter touchdown when sophomore running back Tyquan McCray, 5-foot-9, 210-pounds, scored from three yards out. Andrews made the two-point conversion and York was ahead 41-21.
The Vikings tacked on a couple more scores but the Cougars held on for the win as both teams substituted freely in the final quarter.
Thomas Wilkerson, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound running back, made his presence felt in the Cougars’ spread offensive scheme,.
“I gained confidence at running back with the JV team last season,” Wilkerson said. “I felt good running the ball tonight.”
“You have to play with confidence and make the reads,” he said. “Spartanburg was a good challenge for us to get the kinks out tonight.”
The Cougars expect more of the same when Sumter rolls into town Friday night.
Carroll has maintained that playing strong non-region teams will prepare the Cougars for Region 3-AAAA competition and the playoffs.
The Cougars will travel to Irmo next week and return home Sept. 5 to play cross-county rival South Pointe.