Strom Thurmond drops Laney from schedule, adds team from Maryland

The Strom Thurmond football team was stuck and in scramble mode. So the Rebels went to the Internet.

The program advertised it needed a game; it got a taker from a few states away.

Instead of opening up against Laney on Aug. 24, the Rebels will be home against Eastern Christian Academy of Maryland at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 17. Strom Thurmond now has Aug. 24 off.

Eastern Christian Acade­my, ranked No. 75 in the nation and No. 3 in Mary­land by Rivals.com, has a handful of Division I prospects, including defensive end Kenny Bigelow, a five-star prospect committed to the University of Southern California.

But the program also has other star players including quarterback David Sills. The 2015 prospect is also committed to the Trojans.

Strom Thurmond coach Lee Sawyer compared the program to Oak Hill Academy (Va.) for basketball, in that it’s a team trying to play a national schedule.

“On one end, you get to thinking, ‘Well, dang, do we need to do this?’ ” Sawyer said. “But our philosophy is you play the best schedule you can nonregion, to acclimate to playoff atmosphere, crowds and athletes.”

As for Laney, the Wildcats begin their season at home against Butler on Aug. 31. Sawyer said there was a mix-up between his program and Laney.

The Eastern Christian Acad­e­my game gives the Rebels five home contests this year. Before the agreement, Strom Thurmond would have had only four home games on a nine-game schedule. With South Caro­lina schedules set, options were more than limited.

“You can’t survive on that,” Sawyer said. “We advertised it on the Internet that we needed a game and we got a call from these people. It was pretty quick.”

Strom Thurmond talked it over with Eastern Christian and sent a contract.

As part of the agreement, which is a one-year commitment for a game, the Rebels keep all gate receipts. Eastern Christian Academy just wants a meal and suggestions on where to stay, Sawyer said.

The coach also said he hopes the game brings his players more attention.

“We’re never going to be afraid to play anybody,” Sawyer said. “On the flip side, maybe we’ll get some exposure for our guys.”

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