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Screven County fans anxiously awaiting the upcoming kickoff
Football is not the only game on the SCHS agenda this fall; there are three other sports with a full schedule on tap.
Softball already has played four games; the first cross country meet is Sept. 3; and the first cheer competition is Sept. 19.
Despite all of the activity among the sports of those clad in the Red and White in the fall of 2015, one thing is for certain, the most anticipated event is Friday night’s kickoff against the visiting St. John’s, S.C., Islanders.
While SCHS handled SJHS to the tune of 48-0 in the season opener a year ago, the Islanders went on to have an outstanding season. Going unbeaten through Region VI A to claim a region title for the second season in a row, the Islanders advanced to the second round of the state before being ousted by eventual state runner-up Bamberg-Ehrhardt.
SJHS finished at 8-4 and now have a new head coach in Dennie McDaniel.
Said SCHS head football coach Ron Duncan, “I think everyone has high expectations. For high achievement to take place, there have to be high expectations. But fans have to remember that we are still very young at some very important places and have a lot of folks with no game experience. Sometimes you get a very good team that might be missing one key ingredient and they don’t reach their goals. I have seen a lot of good teams go through that.
“There are a lot of things that go into having a great team,” Duncan said. “You have to peak at the right time. We may have peaked too early last year. There are folks on our nonregion schedule who can beat us; this is a tough region and a tough schedule. St. John’s won their region a year ago and went as far as we did in the state playoffs.
“Our kids play with a lot of physicality,” he explained. “I think that also wore us down last year. The new contact rules may help us there as the season progresses.”
Or maybe it should be called less-contact rules.
In addition to dealing with heat rules for practice, Duncan also is dealing with GHSA contact rules which truly make things harder to get a team ready. New limits include no more than three full-contact practices per week. No full contact in more than two consecutive days. No more than 30 minutes of full contact per day and no more than 90 minutes of full contact per week.
Obviously, this will slow the team’s development down.
“Right now we are a long way from where we want to be,” said Duncan, whose Gamecocks scrimmaged Effingham County on Aug. 14. “But we film practice every day and the kids watch plenty of those tapes and we try to correct what we see. Then something else may pop up. Before we can play the ball, we need to play to live up to some folks’ anticipation, we have to get a lot of things corrected. The Effingham scrimmage will go a long way toward helping us get ready for St. John’s.”
As defending 3AA champion and winner of two of the last three titles, the Roosters will have a bullseye on their back though it does not seem as a lot of folks see it.
While Jefferson County and Swainsboro are getting a lot of statewide notoriety, not so for SCHS.
“The region is tough and balanced again. Jefferson County has 30-plus seniors and a ton of athletes. They are loaded,” moaned Duncan. “Swainsboro has their best team in a while. Every Friday night in 3AA will be a war.”
As the season begins, there are three Roosters listed as starters on both sides of the ball and all three are underclassmen, including a pair of sophomores in CJ Wright and Davien Perry, and junior Richmond Whitfield. There are still a lot of No. 1s on one side of the ball that are No. 2s on the other side.
Softball got the jump on all the rest with games on three consecutive days Aug. 10-12 and another, at Effingham County, two days ago.
Graduation left at least one huge hole in the lineup of a softball program that produced a 20-12 record and a Sweet 16 berth in the playoffs a year ago. Off to an 0-3 start at last week’s end, the biggest hole was pitching with fewer than 20 innings returning, but timely hitting has proven a problem early as well.
“Our pitching is getting better,” said head coach Billy Pollock. “All of our returning pitchers together have one start under their belt from last season and an injury to our only freshman has forced our returning folks to step up and be used to fill a spot. We have struggled with control at times, but we have improved each time out and should only get better.”
Otherwise “Our lineup is beginning to settle into place,” Pollock said. “The runs will come with our speed. We have to get our big power hitters to start consistently producing. Our slappers have been doing a great job of setting the table.”
The first home softball contest is when AAAA Burke County is here on Aug. 25 and the first 3AA game is on the 27th when Jefferson County will be here.
Claiming a fifth place statewide finish and actually having the highest raw score of all AA schools in 2014, the SCHS Lady Gamecock cheerleaders are ready to try to retrieve the region title that narrowly eluded them a year ago.
“This is a very talented group with lots of potential. We have an incredibly strong senior group and great leadership,” said Mary Helen Harrison, who coaches the SCHS cheerleaders with Vette Rountree. “As far as the other teams in our region, I really don’t know much about them. East Laurens and Swainsboro usually have good routines, but mostly we have to focus on us and performing at the level we are capable of.”
As with football, the Lady Gamecock cross country team opens the season as the defending 3AA champions. The cross country team has claimed the region title the last three seasons.
As they look for their fourth in a row -- something only both tennis teams and cheerleading have done at SCHS – cross country again suffer from a numbers problem.
At week’s end, there were but four runners out for the team.
Nevertheless new head coach Cindy LeMaster says, “I’m excited to join the Gamecock coaching family and the opportunity to continue building the competitive cross country program that my predecessors have established, in just the first two weeks of official practice I have already seen some really positive attitudes being displayed from our small team.
“Each girl brings their own personality and leadership to the group that makes us a well-rounded team looking to achieve and sustain excellence” LeMaster said. “Excellence can never be achieved yesterday, nor can it ever be achieved tomorrow. Excellence can only exist in the present and in cross country’s case, all it needs is a pair of shoes to get the work in.”
Cross country opens at Southeast Bulloch on Sept. 3 with the first home meet on Sept. 23.