Originally created 08/30/98

Prep notes: Lincoln vs. McCormick anticipation heats up



Lincoln County and McCormick are one win away from a monumental border wars' matchup.

The Sept. 11 encounter could be a matchup of Class A No. 1's from their respective states when McCormick visits Lincoln County on that date.

Lincoln County is currently the No. 1 ranked Class A team in Georgia, while McCormick is likely to be ranked No. 1 when the first South Carolina Class A state poll comes out on Wednesday. The Chiefs are ranked No. 1 by The South Carolina High School Sports Report.

Lincoln County will play host to Buford this week in the season opener for both squads, while McCormick (1-0) will look to move to 2-0 when it plays host to Ninety-Six (1-0), a 12-0 winner over Pendleton in its opener.

Lake View, which defeated McCormick 28-0 in last year's Class A state championship game to cap a 15-0 season, was blasted by Dillon 33-6 in its season opener. McCormick defeated Saluda, 21-13, in its season opener.

READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL: The season can't come soon enough for the Georgia area high schools.

The season begins on Friday after five weeks of practice which at times has been grueling for both players and coaches. Georgia high schools started preseason practice on July 27, one week before the South Carolina area schools, but will begin play one week after the South Carolina season started.

"I know the players are getting tired of hitting their friends and want to hit somebody else," Burke County assistant coach Nick Davissaid. "It's been grueling for the coaches' too. We get tired of going over the same things. We're ready to start preparing for somebody to play."

INJURY FREE/SUBTLE CHANGE: Both Barnwell coach Mac Wier and Williston-Elko coach Charlie Combs talked about getting out of their season opener injury-free.

Barnwell ripped Williston-Elko, 48-0, in the season opener for both squads. Barnwell lost a player to injury after the first game last season, and Wier was glad to see his team get through the contest healthy.

"We played everybody at least 16 minutes," said Wier of the season opener. "We didn't get anybody hurt and that's always good to see after a first game."

Combs also talked about getting out of the contest injury-free. His team is likely to throw the football more than usual with sophomore quarterback T.J. Martinand some experienced receivers.

But maybe Combs' biggest move occurred in the offseason. Williston-Elko will play its biggest rival, Blackville-Hilda, on Sept. 25 instead of at the end of the regular season. Blackville-Hilda, which will play host to Barnwell this week, will be at Williston-Elko in the Region 5-A encounter. Blackville-Hilda defeated Williston-Elko for the region championship last season.

"We thought it would be a good move to play it earlier since it's such a big emotional game right before the playoffs," Combs said.

GUT CHECK: When Strom Thurmond's Dwayne Lee reeled in a 67-yard pass from quarterback Antwaun Hillary in the waning moments of the Rebels 19-0 loss to North Augusta on Friday, the Yellow Jackets made a statement.

A facemask penalty put the ball on the 14-yard line with 11 seconds left on the game clock. North Augusta coach Joe Long removed his second team defense and reinserted his starters. On first down Hillary found an open Lee in the end zone but the junior receiver dropped the ball.

With six second remaining, Yellow Jackets cornerback Brian Elam swatted down Hillary's pass then on the game's final play, Jonathan Mathis was tackled at the four.

"It's a pride thing," Long said. "We didn't want them to score, it was an important test for our defense. We wanted a shutout."

Midland Valley travels to North Augusta on Friday for a county matchup that intensified during the Aiken County Jamboree on Aug. 21. The Mustangs dominated the line of scrimmage and won 9-0.

Junior running back Jamaal Johnson transferred from Midland Valley to North Augusta this year and will be the focal point of the rivalry. Johnson was held in check by the Mustangs in the jamboree but broke out for 122 yards and two touchdowns against the Rebels.

The Mustangs pulled out a narrow 21-19 victory over South Aiken in their season opener and Long admits Midland Valley is an improved team.

"They put it to us in the jamboree," Long said of the Mustangs. "They surprised us and embarrassed us."