Football at Spirit Communications Park was a home run for players, fans and coaches of Ridge View and Fairfield Central on Friday.
A strong contingent of fans from both teams showed up and witnessed the first football game at the home of the Columbia Fireflies, the Class A affiliate of the New York Mets.
Fireflies owner John Katz said it took about two to three days to transform the stadium to get it football ready, with the longest task putting in the goalposts. The goalposts were near the visitors dugout on the third-base line, with the other in front of the right-field wall.
The dirt from the infield was left on the surface, but players said it didn’t cause any problems. The players got the minor league treatment and dressed in the clubhouses. The game was broadcast on the big-screen scoreboard and in-house television complete with replays.
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“Hats off to John Katz, Columbia Fireflies and city of Columbia,” Ridge View coach Perry Parks said. “This is what it is all about. These kids on both sides will never forget it. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
“This was great, one of the best places I ever played in,” Ridge View receiver Tre’ High said.
Parks gave Katz the game ball following the Blazers’ 22-20 win over the Griffins and said he wouldn’t hesitate for his team to play at the stadium in the future.
It was the first of three games, as part of the Palmetto Health-USC Medical Group Orthopedics Pigskin in the Park Series. A.C. Flora and Chapin will play on Oct. 7, and Gray Collegiate will face Eau Claire on Oct. 21.
“The design of this ballpark was meant to host football,” Katz said Friday. “It is a perfect fit and will be perfect for potentially soccer in the spring.”
Additionally, Katz said he wants to host high school soccer matches in the spring, along with high school and maybe college baseball games before the Fireflies’ season starts in April. The South Carolina High School Baseball Coaches Association will host its annual all-star games at the park in May.
Ben Lippen sported shiny gold chrome helmets for its matchup against Hammond.
The Falcons warmed up in their normal green helmets, but came out in the gold ones, which had their team’s logo on it. Ben Lippen defeated the Skyhawks 31-21 to snap Hammond’s 27-game winning streak.
“I bought them this last spring and been saving them,” Ben Lippen coach Derrick White said. “We surprised the kids Thursday. Riddell (helmet manufacturer) fitted them a while back, but we kept it a secret.”
White said they might wear the helmets a couple more times this season.
Four weeks into the season, we’re down to seven unbeaten Midland teams.
The undefeated public schools are Dutch Fork (3-0), Gilbert (4-0), Brookland-Cayce (3-0), Ridge View (4-0) and Dreher (3-0). In SCISA, Ben Lippen is 3-0 and W.W. King is 3-0 in 8-man.
Region play begins next week for local 5A teams
Region play begins this Friday for the teams in seven-team Region 5-5A, which is made up of Midlands teams.
First-week matchups include: Blythewood at Irmo; Dutch Fork at River Bluff; and Lexington at Spring Valley. White Knoll will play North Augusta and begin region play the following week.
The top five teams in the region automatically qualify for the playoffs, with the sixth-place team a possible wildcard for the final playoff spot.
▪ Jordyn Adams, Blythewood – Threw for 228 yards, two touchdowns and rushed for 57 in win over Westwood.
▪ Catriez Cook, Gilbert – Senior back rushed for 250 yards and three TDs in win over Airport.
▪ Cedrick Cunningham, North Central – Rushed for 235 yards and three TDs in win over Timmonsville. One of his TDs was a highlight reel run in which he made seven players miss and had a vicious stiff-arm.
▪ Corbett Glick and Jack Theodore, Hammond – Glick threw for 338 yards, with nine of those passes going to Theodore for 185 yards in loss to Ben Lippen.
▪ Jerricho Murphy, Camden – Rushed for 180 yards and two TDs in win over Cheraw.
▪ Reese Nichols, Dutch Fork – Completed 16 of 31 passes for 244 yards and three TDs, including the game-winner to Bobby Irby with 1:28 left in a win over Summerville.
▪ Bryce Thompson, Ben Lippen – Rushed for 233 yards, caught two passes for 34, returned an interception for TD, blocked a field goal and forced two fumbles against Hammond.
▪ Jay Washington, Dreher – Rushed for 193 yards and a TD in win against River Bluff.
Ones to watch
A look at next week’s top matchups in the Midlands:
▪ Brookland-Cayce at Chapin – Bearcats are 3-0 and coming off a bye week while the Eagles are looking to bounce back after loss to Newberry.
▪ Dreher at Calhoun County – Matchup of 3-0 teams. Dreher’s coming off a win over River Bluff.
▪ Fairfield Central at Newberry – Teams have met in the playoffs past three years and kept rivalry going despite not being in same region. Fairfield won in regular season last year, while Newberry won in postseason.
▪ Lexington at Spring Valley – Teams meet in opener in what should be a very competitive Region 4-5A.
▪ Richland Northeast at A.C. Flora – Game between former region foes. RNE won last year, 39-20.
▪ Ridge View at Union County – Gamecocks commits Damani Staley (Ridge View) and Shai Smith (Union County) square off.