North Augusta counts on support, electric atmosphere

NORTH AUGUSTA — North Augusta will play host to a former region rival tonight with a history of close games between the two.

 

When the Yellow Jackets take the field against Lexington, they’ll do so in what many area coaches consider one of the best stadiums around Augusta. They’ll also count on one of the area’s best Friday night atmospheres for their advantage.

North Augusta’s “one school, one team” motto is often seen on T-shirts at athletic events. That motto is ingrained in the history of the Jackets Nest, which was built on community support.

“Having a big crowd here, they get excited, they get loud and they’re very supportive of the kids,” North Augusta coach Brian Thomas said. “Our group here does a great job, the community supports us. I think the kids enjoy playing here.”

According to accounts from The Augusta Chronicle, a five-month fundraising campaign in 1976-77 initiated by the North Augusta Chamber of Commerce netted most of the cash and pledges necessary to construct a new football stadium. Construction began in April 1977 on the site adjacent to the school on Knobcone Avenue.

The new stadium allowed North Augusta to spread its wings beyond Lions Memorial Field, which served the team for years before the school’s fan support outgrew the field’s bleacher capacity.

A 5,300-seat stadium, featuring permanent seating on both sides, a scoreboard, concession stand and press box, was unveiled Sept. 23, 1977, with a home opener against Glenn Hills.

The Chronicle’s game story quickly summed up the opener: “It was all North Augusta Friday night. There was just no way that anything could go wrong. And nothing did.”

North Augusta opened its new stadium in style with a 27-7 victory over the Spartans.

The Yellow Jackets have since produced seven seasons of 10 or more wins in the Jackets Nest, including its third state championship in 1989. The field, which has since added the area’s first turf playing surface and video board, has played host to many dramatic games and plenty of star players.

No. 5 North Augusta will again rely on the stadium’s usual electric atmosphere Friday night when Lexington visits at 7:30 p.m. The two were region rivals for years until Lexington moved up to Class AAAAA for last season, but they kept the series going with an annual non-region matchup.

The game is typically a close and dramatic one. The Wildcats held off a driving Yellow Jackets offense at home last season to win 22-20, while North Augusta’s most recent win, 21-7, came in 2014. Since 2003, a touchdown or less has separated the teams in nine of 14 meetings.

“I think they feel like we left one out there last year with them,” Thomas said. “We were driving and made a mistake at the end. We were there to win the game and we didn’t get it done at the end. I think it left a bad taste in their mouth a little bit.”

North Augusta enters 2-0 with wins over Lakeside and Evans, and both games allowed the Yellow Jackets to show off their talented set of skill players. They’ll need them at full speed against a rolling Lexington team that enters 3-0, with the most recent victory coming in double overtime against Brookland-Cayce.

As history has shown, anything can happen on the field between these two teams. But North Augusta can count on its community support to provide a positive home-field advantage.

“We’ve had good preparation. The kids are working hard,” Thomas said. “They’re a good football team, ranked in the top 10 at 3-0, and we’ve got to be ready to go.”

 

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