Just like last year, The Herald Football Jamboree is a week earlier than in past years.
It has to be that way because several teams could not fill their schedules in the required 11 weeks. They'll do so by playing earlier than most of the state's teams, next week in what's called Week 0.
And the point is?
Most teams are just now coming together in their second week of practice. The coaches are not certain which players will be on the varsity or junior varsity and some have not installed everything, such as their kicking games.
But there's more to it than just kicking the ball.
Coaches have to decide which players are on each kicking team -- kickoffs, kickoff returns, extra-point offense and defense, punting and punt returns, field goals and field goal defense.
Several coaches called this week to ask if the Jamboree will have a live kicking game. The answer is yes, in all phases. Each team will play two regulation 12-minute quarters under live game rules.
Each Jamboree, at York tonight and Rock Hill on Friday, will begin with a kickoff. When the next two teams take over, there will be a coin toss and another kickoff.
"We have our kicking game in place,'' York coach John Barrett said. "Years ago lots of teams would wait to put it in, but I don't know if some still do it that way. On the first day of spring practice, we started putting ours in.''
Barrett, in his second season, said the hardest thing about the kicking game is making players realize its importance. During most practices, he said, players tend to look at it as slow down time.
"We had to work hard to get them out of that way of thinking, that it's not the case,'' he said. "I think it's good for us to have the live kicking game as part of the Jamboree, especially for us since we play Laurens in Week 0. If you don't have your kicking in place, you'll lose in a heartbeat.''
The Jamboree begins at 7 p.m. today at York Comprehensive High School's Pratt Field. Indian Land goes against Andrew Jackson, Fort Mill takes on South Pointe and Great Falls plays host York to cap the evening. The gates open at 5:30 p.m.
On Friday at Rock Hill's District Three Stadium, the night starts with Nation Ford, Fort Mill's new high school, playing Lewisville at 6:30. Weddington (N.C.), making its first appearance in the Jamboree, plays Clover, Chester takes on Rock Hill and Lancaster battles Northwestern.
Lancaster vs. Northwestern is a matchup of coaches who have a long history. Northwestern's Jimmy "Moose" Wallace returned to the Trojan's sideline this year after sitting at a desk for the last two, and Lancaster hired Bennie McMurray two years ago.
McMurray, who replaced Wallace at Lewisville when he left for Northwestern in 1987, led Lewisville to three state championships before retiring and starting the program at Charlotte's E.E. Waddell. He returned to his hometown last year as the Bruins' coach.
The Jamboree also features the cheerleaders. At the conclusion of each night, Jamboree Spirit Award trophies will be handed out to one home team squad and to a visitor team squad.
Home teams on the right
Indian Land vs. Andrew Jackson
Fort Mill vs. South Pointe
Great Falls vs. York
Lewisville vs. Nation Ford
Clover vs. Weddington (N.C.)
Chester vs. Rock Hill
Lancaster vs. Northwestern
• When: Tonight at York's Pratt Field; Friday at Rock Hill's District Three Stadium
• Tickets: $5 at the gate
• Starting times: 7 p.m. at York; 6:30 p.m. at Rock Hill