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St. John’s Islanders in Sylvania for season opener, stadium rededication

Recording their third earliest opening date in history and only the second-ever home-standing regular season Saturday game, the Screven County High School Gamecocks of Ron Duncan will host the seventh-ranked St. John’s (S.C.) Islanders on the night of the rededication of Kelly Memorial Stadium.
Pregame ceremonies, beginning with the Maj. Charles L Kelly monument unveiling in front of the ticket booth will begin at 6:30 p.m. with opening kickoff scheduled for 7:30.
A complete unknown to local fans, “St. John’s has some really good players and their coaches do a good job of getting them ready,” reports Duncan. “They are a program over there with a lot of tradition and pride. We will have to play well.”
Though the contest represents the season opener for both teams, both have preseason scrimmages under their belts including the AA Gamecocks’ encounter with AAAAA (really AAAAAA) Effingham County.  
Through three quarters with No. 1’s versus No. 1’s, SCHS took a 9-6 loss.
“I thought it went about like I expected” said Duncan. “We kept it pretty vanilla on both sides the ball. I thought we were physical on both sides of the ball.”
On the night, SCHS, especially in the first half, put together some impressive drives, but came up short on two of them, netting only a 32-yard Jeremy Hawkins TD run.
Defensively, two big plays for the Rebels led to a score and a field goal. Beyond that, ECHS was held in check.
“Offensively, we were able to take advantages of some things early on,” Duncan said. “They changed their front up some and brought a lot of pressure. It was the first time we have seen that and I think we didn’t handle it as well as we could have, but I think seeing that will help us in the future. Both big plays were a result of over pursuit. We have a bunch to correct, but the effort was great.”
In summary, Duncan said, “I am very pleased, but certainly not satisfied.”
Heading into last Friday’s scrimmage and this Saturday’s regular season opener, Duncan has been very pleased with his troops in general.
“The whole team … the attitude, the work ethic has been the best since I have been here,” he said. “It has been unbelievable. We still have a ways to go, but I have no complaints. Obviously, we will never be perfect.”
With him being so upbeat, pressed to explain a difference between this year and a year ago, Duncan quickly said, “Practice tempo, work ethic, just overall attitude. The coaches said it in the spring. Our worst days now are as good as some of the best days last year. Last year at coaches meetings we were always talking about who we needed to push to get them going … what we could do to improve practices. There has been none of that this year.”
As was evident against Effingham, who dressed better than 100 players, “We have a lot more depth than we have had lately,” Duncan said. “This year we have been able to have competition between the offense and the defense … I mean No. 1’s versus No. 1’s. We can now put players on both sides of the ball that can compete with each other at every position. That can’t do anything but make us better.”
There was a lot of rushing yardage to go around when the first-team players were in. Tavarious Johnson (11-55), Hawkins (5-44), Kevin Walker (3-38), Caleb Krulic (4-24), and Donta Wilburn, in his first start at QB was 7-27 and 4-of-8 passing with two dropped.
With a pair of true scrimmage periods after the starters departed following three periods, Duncan was able to say, “We played everyone who dressed (nearly 90). With the exception of [freshman quarterback] Jonathan Roberts, we came out healthy. We did have one two-way player suffer from cramps late in the third.”
In the end though, Duncan did throw in a dose of reality.
“Life ain’t always fair,” he said. “Just because we work hard does not mean we will win, but it doesn’t hurt.”