Walking the halls of Green Sea Floyds last Friday, an emptiness prevailed for Jacob Springs.
A dream season for the Trojans football team ended the week before, it was the first time his senior year there was no game to look forward to. Still with a bitter taste in his mouth, what transpired on the gridiron elsewhere around the state mattered little — still struggling to come to terms with the fact it was all over.
“It was tough, very tough,” he said. “You have a dream season and doing things teams before you hadn’t, you simply don’t want it to be over. Being a senior, it makes it harder to deal with.”
Fortunately for Springs, he kept his helmet, shoulder pads and cleats nearby.
With the S.C. High School League opting to extend the football season by two weeks following Hurricane Matthew, the state semifinal and final rounds came into conflict with the state’s top all-star games — the Shrine Bowl and the Touchstone Energy Cooperatives North-South Bowl. While certainly an inconvenience to some, others found opportunity in the matter.
It was crazy ... I walked in (Green Sea Floyds football coach Tony Sullivan’s) house and saw a phone call and who it was. I slammed on the table, jumped up and down.
Green Sea Floyds offensive lineman Jacob Springs on being named to the North-South all-star game
Sixteen gridiron standouts from various locales around the Palmetto State received an unexpected phone call on Saturday, learning their prep football careers were extended by a game. Better late than never, the players will take part in this Saturday’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives North-South Bowl at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium.
“It was crazy ... I walked in (Green Sea Floyds football coach Tony Sullivan’s) house and saw a phone call and who it was. I slammed on the table, jumped up and down,” said Springs about realizing he was asked to join this year’s North-South football game. “I was extremely excited. This is a great opportunity.”
Springs was one of two additions to the South team roster, along with Carolina Forest offensive lineman Antwine Loper. They join three Grand Strand standouts – Georgetown’s Zaire Barron, Conway’s Peyton Derrick and Myrtle Beach’s Keyonte Sessions – previously selected to take part in the week of activities.
For Loper, receiving this opportunity he feels not only extends his high school football career, it somewhat validates it.
“It means I’m up there with these guys, that I can compete with them,” he said. “When I thought about this game and being in it, someone saw potential in me to come play with these boys. It certainly was a great phone call to receive Saturday evening.”
Like Springs, the Carolina Forest senior standout wanted to end his career on a high note. Unable to win a championship, Loper feels this is the next best thing.
However, he also tends to think about teammates who could not be with him.
“The Summerville game left (Caroline Forest seniors) in shock, because we realized our careers were really over,” he said. “When I got that call, to play in an all-star game, in the sport that I live for, it was amazing. The only thing a lot of my friends said ‘at least you get to play another week.’ I’m in a position a lot of them want to be in.”
It means I’m up there with these guys, that I can compete with them. When I thought about this game and being in it, someone saw potential in me to come play with these boys. It certainly was a great phone call to receive Saturday evening.
Carolina Forest offensive lineman Antwine Loper
Making it to the North-South all-star game has added significance for Lake City’s Jalen Barr.
A key piece for a Lake City offense that averaged more than 37 points per game, the Panthers wide receiver is carrying on a family tradition, following in the footsteps of his father Phillip Nesmith, a former gridiron standout at Johnsonville.
“It is a great honor, I’m just blessed to get it,” he said. “... When I learned about (getting the North-South nod) I told my mom, ‘I’ll be at the beach all week!’
“Of course, she was proud, but (Nesmith) was too. Especially because this is a game he played in when he was in high school.”
Though late in terms of getting a call to join the team, each of them have been embraced by teammates, as well as their foes on the North team. According to Loper, that is what events like this are all about.
“Yeah, we are here to compete, but we’re all trying to get better too,” the Carolina Forest senior standout said. “None of us are taking this opportunity for granted, and are looking forward to playing this game Saturday afternoon.”
Coaches balance work and play at North-South game
Much like players, coaches count it as an honor to have their names called to participate in all-star game as well.
Having coached in the Shrine Bowl and a previous edition of the North-South football game, Irmo football coach Reggie Kennedy understands this opportunity does not come around but every once in a while.
“I did this about a decade ago and also the Shrine Bowl previously, and it never gets old,” the South team coach said. “From the time I coached this game the last time and now, it has improved leaps and bounds. And the athletes have as well.”
Getting their pick of the litter certainly can’t hurt, either.
“When you’re at your school, you have to go with what you have,” he said. “A perfect team without flaws is hard to achieve. But when you come out to these all-star games, you have talent everywhere and there is depth at every position. It really allows you to have fun while you work.”
Coaches learn a bit about humility as well.
You come here competitive, and want the kids to be successful. If you are a competitor you want to win at all times. If you don’t want to win, you’re not going to practice. If you want to succeed, you’re willing to work. And these kids have been willing to work.
Baptist Hill football coach and South team assistant Marion Brown
Often volunteering to assist in managing a team months before a roster is put together, coaches – so often in a lead role at their respective schools – are asked to follow, which can be a difficult task for some to achieve.
“It works great, though. Just like being a head coach at your school, you expect your staff to be loyal and work with you,” said Baptist Hill football coach Marion Brown, who is assisting Kennedy with the South squad. “So with that in mind, you bring that same mindset here. You be loyal to the head coach of the all-star team, and work with him.
“Being the head coach at your high school, all that is thrown out the window once you get here. You can’t bring that attitude here if you want your team to be successful.”
Other than coaches working together for a common goal, the main hurdle for both staff and players is terminology. Each having different names for similar concepts, bringing everyone up to speed fortunately doesn’t take much time.
“All coaches, players are coming from different terminology and how everything is called,” he said. “But everything is the same. The pass route is the same, but is named differently. The play is run the same, but is named differently. Once all of that is ironed out, everything is back in motion.”
Don’t tell any of the coaches this is a mere exhibition game, though. Their goal – like every time they hit the gridiron – is to win.
“You come here competitive, and want the kids to be successful,” Brown said. “If you are a competitor you want to win at all times.
“If you don’t want to win, you’re not going to practice. If you want to succeed, you’re willing to work. And these kids have been willing to work.”