Are you ready for some football?
OK, maybe just not yet with LeBron, Wimbledon and the World Cup dominating the sports headlines. After all, it’s late July and it’s time to take that remaining vacation.
But this is South Carolina, and when it comes to high school sports, football is king. The first day of practice for High School League teams is July 27 and The Hendrick Charleston Sertoma Classic, the kickoff of the high school football season is slated for Aug. 9-10 at The Citadel’s Johnson Hagood Stadium. This marks the event’s 48th year and includes pomp, circumstance and school pride.
This year’s event also marks the debut of Philip Simmons High School as a varsity team.
The Iron Horses fielded a junior varsity team last fall in the school’s first year. They were, in a way, on the backstreets. This year, they will be on Broadway.
“The kids are pumped,” said coach Eric Bendig, who led the junior varsity team to a 7-1 record last year. “The kids know it won’t affect our won-lost record. But they also know this event is going to introduce our program to a lot of people. It’s been a long time coming, and we’re honored to be part of such a huge event.
The Sertoma Classic kicks off on Thursday, Aug. 9 but the Iron Horses must wait until the following night to flex their collective muscles. The Iron Horses face Stall, a team they will scrimmage two weeks before the showdown at Johnson Hagood.
Bendig played in the event as a member of the Wando football team in the 1990s and remembers it well. He scored a touchdown as a tight end.
“It’s what I remember most about my career,” Bending said. “I think I scored another touchdown, but it’s the one in Sertoma that stands out. I was a tight end, but basically I was a sixth lineman.”
Bendig said Sertoma is the final tune-up for the regular season. It’s a big night because the players have the opportunity to play in a college stadium with friends, family and fans looking on.
“But the best thing about it is Sertoma is a player-centered event,” Bendig said.
Bishop England and Hanahan will also compete in the Sertoma Classic. The Bishops will play on the second night when they take on crosstown rival Porter-Gaud in the marquee matchup. The two schools are intense rivals, and when they play, the game or match is called the “Holy War.”
Hanahan will play West Ashley in the opening night. The Hawks will be led by first-year coach David Morbitzer, who replaces Charlie Patterson, who resigned after last season.
Here is the complete Sertoma Classic schedule:
Thursday, Aug. 9
Charleston Charter vs. Northwood Academy
North Charleston vs. Academic Magnet
James Island vs Oceanside Collegiate
Hanahan vs West Ashley
St. John’s vs Burke
Friday, Aug. 10
Military Magnet vs Pinewood Prep
First Baptist vs. Baptist Hill
Porter-Gaud vs. Bishop England
Timberland vs. Wando
Stall vs. Phillip Simmons
Trinity-Byrnes Collegiate vs. Garrett Academy