Hailing from a small town where everyone knew his name, the task of forging new relationships this week seemed a tad daunting for Saluda’s Cortez Herrin.
Standing out from the crowd has proven easy for the senior offensive lineman, in part because of his 6-foot-3, 320-pound frame. Thankfully, a larger than life personality has helped offset some of his early nervousness, blending in with a host of talented gridiron stars from throughout South Carolina for this Saturday’s Touchstone Energy Bowl – North vs. South All-Star Game.
“Yeah, it was kind of rough at first, but as the week went on a lot of those walls broke down,” Herrin said. “We’ve kind of got to know each other, and a lot of the things we are getting to experience (courtesy of the North-South game) has something to do with that.”
Certainly, a regimen of two-a-days is keeping both teams “on the hop” this week, players putting their best foot forward in an effort to earn as much playing time as possible. But event organizers have sought to create a bowl-like atmosphere leading up to the contest, scheduling a host of events each day for players.
According to North-South game co-director Scott Earley, the purpose is two-fold.
“We try to go a lot of places, do a lot of things,” he said. “… Whether it is community service involved or competitive, fun and entertainment, we try to give them the whole experience and hope the playability of the game is good on Saturday.
“The goal is to have everyone go home healthy, having the opportunity to brag about this all-star game, because our goal is to have the best game in the country.”
Along with a heaping helping of practices, team meetings and meals, the teams Wednesday night engaged in contested games of bowling at Captain’s Quarters.
“(Bowling) was the first time both teams really were in the same room together,” Herrin said. “The interactions were minor for the large part, but it really lightened the mood and allowed people to be themselves.”
While much of the week is about the stars showcasing their athletic gifts, the opportunity for them to express a more compassionate side also presented itself.
Accompanying a host of Myrtle Beach-area youths through a local Target, players allowed them to fill shopping carts with whatever items their hearts desired.
For Chapin’s Logan Bailey, the experience put the entire week in perspective.
“Truly, this is a humbling experience,” said Chapin quarterback Logan Bailey. “… This is about building friendships and community. (North-South game organizers) have done a good job treating us very well and taking us to do a lot of great things.
“The shopping spree is certainly one of the things you'll remember.”
▪ Hobbled by injury during the previous day’s practice sessions, Chapin quarterback Logan Bailey returned to the field on Thursday, splitting snaps with Seneca signal caller Elijah Turner.
▪ Nursing a lower leg injury, Dreher quarterback Avery Armstrong was held out of the day’s practice sessions. He is expected to return to the practice field Friday.