Yellow Jackets face tough task

North Augusta's Vinny Miller has led the Yellow Jackets' attack, which has scored more than 500 points. North Augusta will try to reach its first title game since 1989.



An annual preseason high school football scrimmage between North Augusta and Goose Creek took place near Charleston, S.C., in August.

Drawing high expectations from the momentum of last year’s state semifinals appearance and a 12-2 season, the Yellow Jackets received a humbling wake-up call.

“We go down there and just get pounded,” North Augusta coach Dan Pippin said. “It wasn’t a big deal to (Goose Creek) when we played them in past years, but it was a big deal to them this year. We didn’t score at all, and I think they scored five or six times. That was our adversity.”

The Yellow Jackets will once again take the field against Goose Creek this week with much more on the line.

A trip to the Class AAAA Division II state championship game will be up for grabs when the teams meet Friday in the state semifinals in Goose Creek, S.C.

But the road trip this time around will be made by a much improved Yellow Jackets squad.

North Augusta (12-1) rebounded quickly from their scrimmage loss with a strong showing the next week in an exhibition with Greenwood, which will also play in the state semifinals this week.

The Yellow Jackets went on to top 500 points in 13 games and will enter tonight’s road game poised to clinch their first state finals appearance in more than 20 years.

Pippin said his team’s positive responses after the exhibition blowout and a lone regular-season loss to eventual Region 5-AAAA champion Lexington are reasons why his team is one of only three area South Carolina squads still playing.

Strom Thurmond will play in the Class AA Division I state semifinals at Woodruff, while Silver Bluff will visit Bishop England in the Class AA Division II semifinals.

“We’ve had adversity, and we’ve had to overcome some things this year,” Pippin said. “But we’ve been preaching to the kids we’re a lot more successful when we’re all pulling together than when we’re pulling apart. I’ve seen that from them.”

A similar rallying of the troops came midseason at Silver Bluff, when the Bulldogs suffered a three-game losing streak.

The skid started with a shutout loss to Midland Valley, a team that otherwise went winless, and also included an embarrassing 52-7 blowout loss to Class AA rival Strom Thurmond, Silver Bluff’s worst defeat, according to scfootball

“Sitting in the end zone after that game, looking up at the scoreboard, that was the moment when we were at our lowest,” coach Al Lown said. “It was a humbling experience.”

The Bulldogs showed an improved effort the following week but still dropped the region-opening contest to Swansea. Silver Bluff has since won six in a row, allowing an average of fewer than six points per game.

“The (coaching) staff I’ve got here is great, and we’ve been together a long time,” Lown said. “So we didn’t have a coaching staff that panicked. We have a lot of young kids who weren’t used to that, but they responded in a way that has put us where we are today.”