Chapin offensive lineman Stephen Haralambis had little idea he would be up for selection for the South Carolina Shrine Bowl team. He had faint hope his name would be included in that prestigious list of 44 players who would represent the Sandlappers in the 78th annual game to be played Dec. 20 at Gibbes Stadium on the Wofford campus.
But on Monday, he became the first Chapin player to be selected to the Shrine Bowl since Dewayne Wise was picked in 1996.
“I’m honored, first of all, to represent my team,” Haralambis said. “It’s an amazing list to be a part of. It’s the elite of the elite out of the whole entire state. There’s only 44 people selected, and I was speechless when I found out. I didn’t think I had done anything to stand out, so when I found out on Monday I was floored and in awe to be picked.”
The selection is well deserved, according to Chapin coach Justin Gentry.
“It speaks volumes for what we’re trying to do at Chapin,” Gentry said. “It also speaks about the guys around Stephen that have helped to push him to this level. It’ a tremendous honor and couldn’t have happened to a more deserving person.”
That Haralambis was picked is not a shock to those who have seen him play. A three-year starter for the Eagles, the 6-foot-3, 270-pound senior was a defensive standout as a sophomore and junior. He approached the Eagles coaching staff in the offseason about playing on the offensive front and, after much debate, they decided to give it a try.
The biggest concern was losing his presence on the defensive side of the ball, but that has been squashed because he has played both ways and seldom comes off the field. In the past three games, he has played nearly 360 snaps.
“His motor is just as good in the fourth quarter as it is in the first quarter. He has some grit about him,” Gentry said. “We were very concerned about him playing both ways, but he’s handled it better than we thought he could.”
Playing on both sides of the ball doesn’t seem to concern Haralambis.
“I’m just filling in the gaps of what our team needs to win,” he said. “You have to be in shape, but going both ways isn’t a problem. We conditioned over the summer to be in the best shape possible. I give the coaches credit for that one. It’s fun playing both ways. You only have one senior year, and I’m getting to play over 100 snaps a game. I’m just living it up.”
South Carolina Shrine Bowl coach Ben Freeman said it didn’t take long for the coaching staff to see that Haralambis was standing out on the film they watched.
“His overall game made him stand out to us,” Freeman said. “He rarely comes off the field for them and he plays hard every snap. You can’t help but be impressed when you watch him on film. When you put on his film, the thing that stands out is his intensity and how well he plays. He probably could have made this team as a defensive lineman as well, but we felt he could help us offensively the most for this game.”
All of the colleges showing interest in Haralambis want him on the offensive side of the ball. Gentry believes the main reason some of the bigger schools haven’t jumped on board is the lack of film of Haralambis playing offense. The other concern might be his height.
But despite the lack of interest from the big-time programs, the results have been off the charts. So far this season, he has graded out at 94 percent from his center position and has contributed 29 tackles, four tackles for loss, one sack and one forced fumble on defense.
Haralambis has an offer from Charleston Southern but is getting a lot of interest from Georgia Southern and Appalachian State.
“My dream is to play big-time D-I (FBS) football, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed and praying that everything goes well with Georgia Southern and I get an offer,” Haralambis said.
Chapin is 5-1 overall and 1-0 in Region 4-3A this season, and the play of Haralambis has been a key to that progress. Winning a region title is in the forefront for Haralambis, and the Eagles have a key region showdown with A.C. Flora Thursday night at Memorial Stadium. The winner will have the inside track to the No. 1 seed in the upcoming playoffs.
“It’s probably our biggest game of the season,” he said. “It should be a battle in the trenches that will be decided after four quarters of fighting.”