High School Football

It’s official: Two Midlands powerhouse football programs to begin seasons with national TV openers

State champion football programs Dutch Fork and Hammond will have high-profile season openers that will be nationally televised

The Class 5A champion Silver Foxes will play North Carolina powerhouse Mallard Creek on Friday, Aug. 23, with the game being televised on ESPN2. The game will take place at Dutch Fork at 6 p.m. There were talks about having it at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.

Hammond’s opener will be Sunday, Aug. 25, at home against Southern Columbia (Pennsylvania) at 2 p.m. and be televised on one of ESPN2. The games will be part of ESPN’s high school kickoff weekend. A full schedule of the games was released Wednesday.

This will be the second straight year Dutch Fork and Mallard Creek are scheduled to begin the season. The Silver Foxes and Mavericks’ matchup last year was canceled because of weather.

“We waited all summer and billed it as our Super Bowl,” Dutch Fork coach Tom Knotts said last year after the game was canceled. “We talked about Mallard Creek. We prepared for them and watched all their film. It was a real letdown for us. Our kids were ready to play. We were ready to have some fun.”

Dutch Fork has won three straight Class 5A titles and features receiver aJalin Hyatt and quarterback Ty Olenchuk, a Clemson baseball commit who threw for 3,804 yards and 42 TDs last season.

Knotts went over the 400-win plateau last season and has 11 state titles in his career, four coming with the Silver Foxes. Dutch Fork enters the game with a 25-game winning streak and finished last season ranked in USA Today Top 25.

The Mavericks have two of the top 2020 recruits in the North Carolina in linebacker Trenton Simpson and defensive end Quentin Williams.

The Hammond and Southern Columbia game features three top Division I prospects in Hammond’s Jordan Burch and Alex Huntley and Southern’s Julian Fleming.

Burch, a defensive end/running back, is ranked No. 1 in the country by 247Sports and has offers from South Carolina, Clemson, Alabama, LSU, Michigan and Tennessee, among others.

Huntley is ranked No. 168 by 247Sports and already has committed to play at South Carolina and in the All-American Bowl.

247Sports ranks Fleming as the No. 1 receiver in the country and No. 5 overall from the Class of 2020. He committed to Ohio State earlier this summer.

Southern Columbia has won 32 straight games and the past two Class 2A titles in Pennsylvania. Coach Jim Roth is the youngest in Pennsylvania history to win 400 games and Southern Columbia has the most championships in state history with nine.

Hammond has won two straight SCISA 3A titles and 16 in school history. Coach Erik Kimrey has won 10 of them since taking over in 2004. The Skyhawks will carry a 25-game winning streak into the opener.

Geico ESPN High School Kickoff Schedule

Aug. 23

Mallard Creek (NC) at Dutch Fork, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)

St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) vs. De. La Salle (Calif.), 9:30 p.m. (ESPNU)

Aug. 24

St. Frances (Md.) vs. Miami Central (Fla.), Noon (ESPN)

Deerfield Beach (Fla.) vs. Carol City (Fla.), 4 p.m. (ESPNU)

Dematha (Md.) vs. St. John Bosco (Calif.), 9 p.m. (ESPN2)

Narbonne (Calif.) vs. Buchanan (Calif.), 11 p.m. (ESPNU)

Aug. 25

Southern Columbia (Pa.) at Hammond, 2 p.m. (ESPN2)