Edgewood headlines new Kickoff Classic
By Tim Gayle
Eight high school football programs representing Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina will converge on Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl to play in the first SECIS Kickoff Classic on Aug. 12-13, 2016.
The event, organized by the Southeastern Commission of Independent Schools, will pit two teams from the Alabama Independent School Association, the Georgia Independent School Association, the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools and the South Carolina Independent School Association.
“The collaboration between the four state associations that make up the Southeastern Commission of Independent Schools is exciting as we add another level of competition but also the opportunity for kids in independent education to meet each other,” SCISA athletic director Michael Fanning said. “Much like the golf tournament held this past April at Callaway Gardens, AISA had a man already verbally committed to Clemson and we have several players off of previous teams and in the future who will go to Clemson, so these kids share a future together with their foundation coming from independent education.”
On Friday, Aug. 12, Brookwood School of Thomasville, Ga., will face Trinity-Byrnes Collegiate School of Darlington, S.C., in a matchup scheduled to start at 5 p.m. At 7:30, Madison-Ridgeland Academy of Madison, Miss., will face Valwood School of Hahira, Ga.
On Saturday, Aug. 13, the first game at 5 p.m. will pit Escambia Academy of Atmore against First Baptist School of Charleston, S.C. At 7:30, Edgewood Academy of Elmore will play Jackson (Miss.) Preparatory.
The final game may be the headliner as six-time defending state champion Edgewood will put its national-best 71-game winning streak on the line against four-time defending state champion Jackson Prep, a team that has captured 22 state championships in football since opening its doors in 1970.
The Wildcats, who scored 720 points last season in going 13-0, haven’t lost a home game since a loss to Glenwood on Oct. 22, 2010, a streak of 36 games. To put that in perspective, the Patriots, who scored 540 points last season in going 13-0, have a 54-game home winning streak.
“I talked to our kids (on Thursday) about it and our kids are extremely excited,” Edgewood Academy coach Bobby Carr said. “God has blessed our program and He has put us on this platform for a reason. I think it’s time for us to step up to the next level. Obviously, it’s a great challenge because Jackson Prep is a much, much, much bigger school with a really great tradition. It’s going to be a tough task but that’s where our program is at.”
AISA athletic director Roddie Beck said he chose Edgewood and Escambia based on the possible matchups.
“We were looking for teams with quality football programs that would match up well against quality opponents,” he said. “We then worked with the other three state associations to matchup based on classification and talent.”
Georgia will send two teams from the same region: Class AAA state champion Valwood School, which went 13-1 last season, and Brookwood School, which lost in the second round of the AAA playoffs and finished 10-3.
“Valwood won our AAA state championship so I picked them because they like playing teams from out of state and teams they don’t normally see,” GISA director of athletics Jon Dorminey said. “I knew they would be open to the travel and open to the challenge. Brookwood is very similar. They also travel well and both of them will do a very good job of representing the GISA and what we’re about.
“I think it’ll be a great event for the kids. We only have 35-40 schools that play football in GISA so everybody knows everybody. Just the opportunity to play someone different was really appealing.”
Jackson Prep is not only the largest MAIS school but also the largest in the event, but MAIS director of activities Les Triplett said his state’s best representation would come from the two participants in the 2015 Class AAAA Division I championship game.
“We were a little late as far as picking teams, so once the other associations picked teams, it looked as if we were going to have to bring our two best teams,” he said. “But this is a great opportunity for all the associations to see what the others have. It gives all of the teams involved an opportunity to play someone they’ve never played. I just think the level of interest makes this event attractive. We’re looking forward to it. Win or lose, it’s going to be a great experience to get to know other people and see how you stack up.”
Madison-Ridgeland finished 10-3 last season, losing to Mississippi High School Activities Association-member St. Martin and to Jackson Prep twice.
Fanning said selecting his participants was “very easy,” adding, “We put out an e-mail and asked, ‘Who’s interested?’ We had four takers and of the four these two were firm commitments.”
First Baptist School of Charleston was 6-5 last year. The Hurricanes lost in the first round of the 2A playoffs.
“Last year was their first year in the football playoffs in a long, long time,” Fanning said, “so they think they’re going in a positive direction and this is not a ‘win-lose’ experience but a ‘win’ experience for them to be able to go out of town, develop team chemistry and play a school they know nothing about.”
Trinity Byrnes Collegiate School was 7-4 and also lost in the first round. The Titans were Class 1A last year but are moving up to Class 2A.
The event was originally scheduled to be played in Georgia, but was recently located to the site of the Camellia Bowl.
“We were on a conference call a few weeks ago and thought we had a venue in Atlanta to play the game, but there was a conflict with one of the days and we were possibly going to have to play four games on Saturday,” Beck said. “The question was asked, ‘Were there any other venues?’ and I spoke up and said I would be glad to check with the City of Montgomery and see if Cramton Bowl was available. They were happy to host this event and we know it’s going to be a first-class event.”
The Kickoff Classic will be held one week before the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s annual Champions Challenge in the same stadium.
“I think that’s great,” Carr said. “I think it’ll be a packed house because they’ll be no college games going on then, no one else playing high school football, so I’m sure it’ll be a tremendous crowd.”