For most folks, it is mid-summer but for high school football coaches, it is only a couple of weeks before the start of fall.
As they wrap up their offseason, a number of the area's coaches were in Bennettsville Monday for the media day for the Dennis Miller Jamboree of Champions. The annual exhibition will be played August 16 at McAlpine Stadium.
"There have been some state rule changes this year and teams are much more limited with the number of scrimmages and jamborees that they can participate in. I am grateful that the other 13 teams agreed to participate in our jamboree," said MCHS head coach Bobby Collins.
The event, named in memory of longtime recreation director and Bulldog booster Dennis Miller, will feature six head coaches who are in their first seasons at their respective schools, including Collins.
Two of those will square off in the opening scrimmage at 4 p.m. Carvers Bay will be coached this season by Matthew Richards after longtime coach Nate Thompson retired. The Bears finished last year 11-1, falling to Barnwell in the semi-finals of Class AA.
They will take on Marion, who will be under first- year head coach Randall State. The Swamp Foxes are rebuilding after a 1-7 season. Marion is new to the Jamboree of Champions.
In the second scrimmage of the day two more teams that will be making their debut in the jamboree will square off. Hemingway High will take on Kingstree.
Hemingway will be coached this fall by Charlie Richards, who is taking over for Greg Lawson who resigned in May. The Tigers finished last season with an 8-6 overall record.
The Jaguars appear to be on the rise, improving their win total each year under coach Earl Brown. However, Kingstree has not finished with a winning record in over 15 years.
The third game will have Mullins taking on Pageland Central. The Auctioneers are coming off one of their best seasons in decades, going 8-2. They were hit hard by graduation but will benefit from the closing of Creek Bridge High School. All of Creek Bridge's students will now attend Mullins, several of which will bolster the Aucs’ roster.
Central will return a strong nucleus from last season's 8-5 team.
Latta and Chesterfield will face-off in the fourth contest. Latta will look to build on a 5-5 2018 record. Coach Brandon Iseman said that he expects his team to be strong on the offensive and defensive lines but will be very inexperienced elsewhere.
The Rams had an up and down season in 2018, finishing 5-6 overall. Second-year coach Michael Maines expects to have a much more experienced squad this season.
Lake View and Cheraw will play at 8 p.m. in what could be the best match up of the night. Lake View is one of the perennial favorites in Class A and Cheraw is returning almost all of their talent from last season.
The Gators were 7-4 last season while Cheraw had a rare off-year, finishing 2-8, dropping their final seven games. The Braves expect to be much improved in 2019.
Darlington, under new coach Raymond Jennings, will open 2019 looking for their first win since 2017. Dillon, which played in the state championship for the seventh straight season, will have some holes to fill if they are to return to Columbia. That might not be apparent when they play Darlington.
The night will wrap with the hometown Bulldogs facing Lamar. Chad Wilkes, who played in the Jamboree of Champions as a Cheraw Brave, will lead the Silver Foxes after Corey Fountain left to take over at Clinton High School.
Lamar was 11-2 in 2018, falling in the state title game to Green Sea Floyds.
"The players are still angry about how last season ended. We'll see if they can turn this in to motivation for this year," said Wilkes, who was part of championship teams at Cheraw in 2006 and 2007.
For the Bulldogs, they will be replacing standout quarterback Elijah Blair and several of his key receivers on offense. They do return four offensive line starters and the top two running backs.
On defense, the entire line graduated and several top players in the secondary will have to be replaced. Linebackers Quincy Graham and Ismael Sloan will be the leaders.
Due to the new constraints on the frequency of scrimmages and jamborees, Marlboro County will appear in two additional exhibitions along with the Jamboree of Champions. Coach Collins is still in the process of confirming those but said he hopes to have the dates locked in later this week.
The state's teams will begin fall practice on Friday, August 2.