Jamborees Usher in 2014 Season

Fairfield Central’s Shadarius Hopkins (6) looks one in during a recent 7-on-7 tournament at Irmo. (Photo/Kristy Kimball Massey)

COLUMBIA – As the long, muggy summer slowly begins to wind down, so too does the countdown clock for the 2014 high school football season. The 7-on-7 drills and passing tournaments of June and July are now officially in the rear-view mirror, and after nearly two weeks lashed into the gear, the shoulder pads should by now feel like a natural extension of the body.

The Blythewood Bengals return a formidable group this season, with a remarkably talented quarterback and other key elements that should have them challenging for a top spot in 4A Region IV. The Fairfield Central Griffins have hit the reset button on nearly all of their skilled positions, but with a strong and beefy offensive line and a fast and husky defense they may be able to meet the challenges posed by Pelion and new 2A Region III addition Newberry. Richard Winn Academy’s Eagles are counting on a wealth of speed and skill to take them to the next level in SCISA 8-man football. They were one win shy of making the playoffs in 2013, and with experience returning at quarterback and speed to burn at every position, this could be a transformative year for the program. The Westwood High School Redhawks are coming off an exciting playoff run in 2013 – their final season in 3A. This year, they will have to rely on some new talent in order to translate that success to the 4A level.

As all four of our local high school football teams wind down the clock to opening night, each will get their first taste of real combat this weekend.

Tonight (Aug. 15), the Richard Winn Academy Eagles will get their first chance to try out some of that coveted, much-heralded speed in preseason action on the road against Laurens. Kickoff is at 6 p.m.

The Bengals and Redhawks both get their feet wet this Saturday in the Midlands Honda Battle of the County Line Jamboree, which pits teams from the Richland 2 School District against Lexington County schools, at Harry Parone Stadium at Spring Valley High School. The event kicks off at 1 p.m. with Ridge View taking on River Bluff, followed by Richland Northeast vs. Gilbert at 2:15, Westwood vs. Irmo at 3:30, Blythewood vs. White Knoll at 4:45 and Spring Valley vs. Dutch Fork at 6 p.m. Admission is $7.

Also on Saturday, the Griffins will participate in the 2014 Sportsarama at Charlie W. Johnson Stadium at Benedict College. Keenan and Columbia kick things off at 3:30 p.m., followed by Eau Claire vs. C.A. Johnson at 4:30 and Lower Richland vs. Lee Central at 5:30. The Griffins face last year’s 2A Division II state champs Batesburg-Leesville at 6:30, with Dreher and A.C. Flora wrapping things up at 7:50 p.m. Admission is $6, parking $5.

If you time things just right, you can take in all four.