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A big opening night for SCHS Gamecock football

It’s been over nine months in coming since the last time the SCHS Gamecock football team went to battle. That night was a none-too-pretty loss to Brooks County in the first round of the Class AA state playoffs.   
I, for one, have been looking forward to the beginning of the 2014 season and still am. I think, judging by the attendance at last Friday’s scrimmage with Effingham County, a lot of other folks are looking forward to it as well.
It was the state playoffs we made it to back last November and it is an accomplishment to get there, but you do want to be competitive once you get there. We weren’t.  
Anyway, it’s a new dawn. I always use the overused cliché that “hope springs eternal” at the beginning of every season. Heck, even Josey is undefeated right now and can dream of a Region 3AAA championship.
Saturday night is a big night for a lot of reasons.  
One of the big reasons comes even before the game commences. The stadium is being rededicated to Maj. Charles L Kelly. He was killed 50 years ago last month in a far off place that no one remembers. There are a lot of folks of more than one generation in Screven County who do not know of his courage and sacrifice. I grew up hearing of him so maybe it is kind of automatic that I think everyone should know of him.  
One group of folks, who do know of him, or of his legacy, are U.S. troops who have been wounded in battles all over the world in many places no one has heard of. Charles Kelly made Dustoff (the helicopter ambulance service) what it became and still is.
If you have been following Telephone editor Enoch Autry’s stories on the upcoming rededication, you should have learned more. If you come to the game Saturday night, you will learn even more.
At 7:30 p.m., the actual game will begin with a kickoff, if we win the toss here’s betting that SCHS head coach Ron Duncan elects to receive. It turns out that St. John’s (S.C.) High School (our opponent if you don’t know) is ranked 7th in one of the South Carolina polls for Class A.
The Islanders went 6-5 and lost in the first round of the playoffs a year ago. Sounds a little like us doesn’t it? Don’t we expect to be better? Obviously, the sports writers over there most definitely think the Islanders are going to be better.
I think that it’s kind of big because it pits Georgia football against South Carolina football. Maybe no one else thinks that way.
How about some trivia? I really thought that regular season Saturday night games for us were really, really rare. Well they are, in Sylvania at least.  
As far as I can tell (quickly looking at the awesome Georgia High School Football Historians Association website) there has never been one at Kelly Memorial. The only one in Sylvania was at the old Cail Field on Nov. 7, 1959, with a 34-14 win over Allendale, S.C. (actually the last South Carolina team we played, but that was in 1978).  
We have played many more Saturday night regular season road games -- the last being Sept. 13, 1997, with a 33-14 win over South Effingham. Of course, there have been some big Saturday postseason games, including 2012. Our one trip to the Georgia Dome was on a Saturday morning.  
Anyway ….
I am optimistic about what is going to happen. The coaches are optimistic and the fans are optimistic.  
Get out there Saturday and see if our optimism is warranted.

Burton Kemp Jr. is a contributing writer for the Sylvania Telephone.