By Thomas Grant Jr.
As Shane Fidler approached his first game as head coach at Airport High School, the one thing he refused to do was look ahead.
In the Eagles’ case, “looking ahead” meant the annual matchup with archrival Brookland-Cayce. As Fidler looks to rebuild the program, his approach remains “game by game” even with his school’s biggest rival on the docket.
“I want to see how much we gain each week,” he said. “How much better are we going to get from the (Lexington Sportsarama) to this game against Swansea. Then, we watched that film. How much we learned from Swansea to Brookland-Cayce, then Brookland-Cayce to Lamar. That’s vital to how your team is going to do the rest of the year. ‘
“Those are good opponents. Swansea is a good 3A team. Brookland-Cayce a great 3A team. Lamar, the most traditional powerhouse in 1A football. So we’re going to learn a lot about our kids, our mental toughness and just all the things that’s going to take to win games long-term.”
The same was true for Brookland-Cayce head coach Rusty Charpia. While knowing the significance of the rivalry to the two communities separated by a couple of miles, improving to 2-0 is more important than “bragging rights”.
Airport passed its first test in a 36-2 road win over the Tigers. In avenging last year’s loss, the Eagles found their passing combination in quarterback Jesse Hoover and wide receiver and wide receiver Avery Jones. The duo hooked up for nine receptions for 149 yards and four touchdowns for Jones, with Hoover finishing 14-23 for 215 passing yards and 56 rushing yards and a score.
Brookland-Cayce opened the season with a 45-6 home rout of Harding (North Carolina). DeShaun Washington rushed for 154 yards and three touchdowns the first-ever meeting between the two schools.
Charpia was pleased with his team’s play against an unfamiliar foe. He also praised the play of Will Young, who will start at quarterback and see action at other positions, and the play of his “huge” offensive line.
If Airport is to snap its 5-game losing streak to the Bearcats, Fidler said it must “focus on cleaning up our mistakes” from the Swansea game and improve defensively.
What the Eagles will not focus upon is snapping the streak.
“Our players will be motivated to win every game,” he said. “We all know who the opponent is, but if we worry about that instead of handling our business, it will distract us.”
The Palmetto State Sports Network will carry the game as well as every Airport/Brookland-Cayce football contest this season. The channel can be downloaded on the phone app store or visit network1sports.com/.
Gray Collegiate at Crestwood
Last week’s decision by the S.C. High School League Appellate Panel was not the news Gray Collegiate hoped to receive.
The school was hoping to reverse the Executive Committee’s decision not to enforce fines on fellow Region 3-2A teams who forfeited games last spring to the War Eagles. The teams cited what they believe is an unfair uncompetitive athletic advantage enjoyed by the West Columbia school as a reason for their stand.
This also leaves open the possibility of teams doing so for football. If all six teams which compete in football in Region 3-2A forfeit, this would leave Gray Collegiate with only four regular-season games. That potentially means after Sept. 8 against Crestwood, it would not play again until the start of the playoffs in November.
“Our focus right now is week to week,” Gray Collegiate head coach Adam Holmes said. “We know we have four games and each one is our focus. All we are thinking about right now is Crestwood.”
And with good reason. For the second straight week, the War Eagles face a ranked opponent outside of Class 2A. This time, it’s on the road against a Knights’ team led by All-State quarterback Javion Martin.
The Shrine Bowl prospect accounted for 3,324 total yards and 41 touchdowns last season. In the 49-21 rout of Richland Northeast, Martin threw for 180 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 53 yards and three scores.
“He is a special talent,” Holmes said. “He can make all the throws and is athletic enough to hurt you with his feet. He has some playmakers out wide. We are going to have to play sound on defense to keep him at bay.”
Gray Collegiate is also coming off a 49-21 win in its first-ever regular-season game at the new home campus stadium. This came over preseason number-one and defending Class A champion Christ Church.
Running back B.J. Montgomery and the offensive line rumbled over the Cavaliers to the tune of 300 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
“Wasn’t really surprised,” Holmes said. “I thought if we came out and played well, we should win. I knew B.J. was capable of playing that way but getting 300 yards rushing was a little surprising. The offensive line definitely played better than they did the past two weeks. Obviously, B.J. couldn’t do it without the guys up front.”
It was also a strong showing by quarterback Tyler Waller in his first game as a starter. He answered an early score by Christ Church with a touchdown pass to South Carolina State commit Zai Offord.
“Offensive-wise, they make you defend the entire field,” Crestwood head coach Roosevelt Nelson said. “Very good players. The offensive line works very well together in running their track. Defensive-wise, their defensive line is very disruptive. The linebackers show up often and the secondary is athletic with ball hawks.”
Northside Christian at Greenwood Christian
Week 0 was truly a test of faith and character for the Northside Christian football team.
From unforeseen bus issues to overcoming on-field injuries, the Crusaders persevere for the 45-42 road win at First Baptist.
“Well, we have some really resilient kids,” Crusaders head coach Dean Howell said. “We rode the entire trip to Charleston with no AC on the bus. It went out about 10 minutes into our trip. We had to stop twice to check it out, let the kids off, get them water and Gatorades…and I never heard a single complaint. Even our cheerleaders were troopers and didn’t complain. I feel really proud to be associated with such great kids.”
“That being said, we had to eat our pregame meal boxed up at the school instead of sitting down and splitting the trip. It was a real mess. I think some of that led to some guys cramping out, but they toughed it out and got back in there at some point.”
Once the game started, the Crusaders suffered what Howell called “self-inflicted” mistakes. Missed tackles led to a touchdown by the Hurricanes’ Marik Gibbs and their quarterback Zacobi Riley passed for 236 yards and two scores.
Northside Christian’s depth was also tested with several players leaving the game with injuries. Stepping up to carry the offensive load was running back Sam Burks with five touchdowns, four rushing, and 253 total yards.
“We had several opportunities to get a little breathing room, but we had a couple bad snaps in key moments which hurt,” Howell said. “I tell the kids before every game, though, that something bad is going to happen. The team that can handle adversity the best is usually the team who finds a way to get it done in the end. We were able to hold them off there after a late score. Happy for them.”’
The Crusaders will see their depth tested again on the road against a Greenwood Christian team coming off a 28-26 loss to Northwood Academy. The win snapped the Chargers’ 29-game losing streak.
River Bluff at Swansea
The Gators are coming off an efficient performance in the 47-13 season-opening win over Lugoff-Elgin.
Six different players (Stephen Collier, Hayden Myers, Darius Caine, Toriaun Leaphart, Jacob Pinkney and Trace Nettles) scored touchdowns and placekicker Tripp Bryant went 2-2 on FGs and 4-4 on PATs.
Quarterback Parker Murray was 7-8 passing for only 67 yards. What had to be pleasing to his eyes was having his top receiver Collier fully healthy following surgery for a torn labrum.