Coach Jet Turner has an answer ready when the conversation turns to Region 3-AAAA.
"The SEC of high school football,'' Turner said Thursday when asked about the upcoming season. "When you look at our region, there can't be another in the state that will be as competitive as ours. Each game will be big.''
Big as in Florida playing Alabama, LSU playing Georgia. Yes, that big.
The new Region 3-AAAA is loaded with former state champions: Clover, Gaffney, Northwestern, Rock Hill and Spartanburg. And the sixth member, Lancaster, is on the upswing.
Combined, the teams have won seven state titles since 2000 and have been state runners-up three times. The hardest prediction going into the 2010 season is guessing which of the teams will make the playoffs. Some good teams are going to be sitting at home when the postseason starts on the second Friday in November.
The fastest to rise to the top has been Clover, which was 8-4 last season. The Blue Eagles moved up from Class AAA in 2006 and won Region 3-AAAA with an undefeated mark in their first season. The following year Clover played for the Class AAAA Division II state championship and beat Beaufort, 23-14.
"We knew it would be tough when we first moved up,'' Turner said. "But our kids work hard and understand what it takes for them to be successful. Playing the top teams has become common for us.
"We were knocked out of the playoffs the last two years by the eventual state champ; Byrnes in 2008 and Dorman (31-28) last year.''
Since the Blue Eagles moved up, the have a 43-12 record. So how do they do it?
Size? No. Nearly every team Clover plays is bigger on both sides of the ball.
Numbers? No. Clover dresses a decent number of players each year, but falls short of the more established and bigger Class AAAA schools.
All-state players? Close, but not there yet. Turner calls his players "blue collar" and is not afraid to get results by committee.
A high-powered passing game? Absolutely not. And justifiably so when you can run for 4,000 or more yards a season.
For Clover, there are several difference makers.
Turner brought in the double wing when he was hired. It's a variation of the wing-T. It doesn't require monster-sized linemen, it keeps opponents on their toes trying to find the ball and it takes a talented crew of skill players handling the ball -- The running backs and a crafty quarterback that can protect the ball and carry off precision fakes.
That quarterback is Aaron Miller, back for his third season as the starter. The running backs graduated and the group included a pair of runners who both added more than 1,000 yards in Tyron Douglas and Max Elliott. But Miller is a perfect fit for the offense and the system allows new backs to move right in.
"Our new backs are very quick,'' he said. "They will be fine. And we'll have some new offensive linemen with only Griffin Marsh and Nick Derdarian back. But the new guys will learn their steps and blocking schemes.
"We go into this season knowing we have to finish near the top of our region to make the playoffs, and it's a good region. But we see it as all six teams having the same chance because all of us play a tough schedule.''
Turner plans to employ the committee system in the backfield, with Trey Childers, Quon Kennedy, Jordan Moore, Cartland Bailey, B.J. Hinton and Zavian Cherry competing for playing time at the three open spots.
Marsh said the offensive line will be "a little'' bigger at 240 pounds across the front. That's promising because the Blue Eagles have been smaller up front in recent years.
"I'm helping keep an eye on the new guys,'' Marsh said. "I'm helping make sure they are carrying out their blocking assignments and don't get out of position. But that's why we practice, to get it right.
"We're off to a good start. Friday morning at a minute past midnight, we had our first practice. We practiced for about an hour and a half, went in to sleep in the gym and came back out at 8 to practice again before we went home.''
Midnight Madness has become a tradition under Turner, and yes, it has been a good way to start a new season and give something special to his team's fans. Marsh said there were between 400 and 500 fans waiting next to the practice field when they went out.
When folks think of Clover, the first thought is usually the offense. It has captured the attention of teams and other fans from around the state any time the Blue Eagles are on the other sideline.
But there is more to Clover's success than just outscoring the other team. Turner is known for his trick plays: An onsides kick or fake punt at any time in the game; maybe a cleverly designed gadget play that goes for big yards.
And because fans love offense, the defense is often overlooked. That's another area where Clover plays well enough to win most games.
A player Turner will count heavily on is defensive end Jerry Sanders. He's moving over this year from tackle.
"People should talk about our offense because they do a good job,'' Sanders said.
"It doesn't bother us that those guys are the ones people read about on Saturday morning. They help us because we know they are going to score points. It's up to us to make sure the other team doesn't score more.
"We graduated some good players on defense. But we seem a little quicker and we know the coaches will have us watching film so we'll be ready on Friday night.''