While it may seem that the summer just hit its stride, for football fans early August is tantalizingly close to the kickoff of the action.
The Marlboro County High School football team opened preseason practice last Friday and have been working out in the mornings this week.
"Overall, I'm pleased with where we are. Summer drills were productive and we have most of the offense installed now," said head coach Bobby Collins, who will be in his first season with the Bulldogs.
"On day one, everybody showed up, which is always a plus. Day two (Saturday) the intensity and enthusiasm went up, which is a key," said Collins.
The third practice being on Monday, was somewhat less spirited but productive nonetheless.
"It was really humid and the guys are just adjusting to wearing helmets and shoulder pads. Monday mornings are always a bit more subdued but the kids showed up," he said.
The team, including both varsity and junior varsity players, has had between 60 and 70 athletes participating in the practice sessions.
One of the competitions getting a lot of attention is the battle to take over the starting quarterback role. For most of the summer it had looked to be a three- man race but one of the competitors dropped out to concentrate on baseball.
Darius Grant and Hakeem Stanback, both juniors, are continuing to work at the position.
"We are getting closer to naming a starter but I never want to make any decision until we see them in action against another team," said Collins.
Another concern is depth along both the offensive and defensive lines. While the coaches would prefer to not use players on both offense and defense, that might be necessary this fall.
The Bulldogs have a good deal of experience returning on the offensive line, including four who started at times last season. Jeremias McLaughlin, Tim McNeil and Gary Bethea were all starters in 2018 while Khalid Roberts started some games and served as the primary reserve in other contests.
However, all of the defensive front graduated with the exception of Roberts, who logged some snaps at tackle as a reserve.
A bright spot has been the addition of the rising freshman class to the practice sessions.
"They are a good looking group. Most will play on the junior varsity but there may be one or two who can help us on Friday nights," said Collins.
The coaching staff will get their first look at the team against a live opponent on Thursday when they will scrimmage at Buford High School, near Lancaster. That is a change from the original schedule which was to scrimmage at Crestwood High School. Buford High is located at 4290 Tabernacle Road, Lancaster.
The team will scrimmage again next Tuesday, traveling to Columbia to participate in a scrimmage at Lower Richland High School.
The team will make their McAlpine Stadium debut next Friday, August 16, as they host the Dennis Miller Jamboree of Champions.
The Bulldogs, along with 13 more of the top teams in the Pee Dee area, will be in action at the jamboree. Marlboro County will face Class A power Lamar in the nightcap of the event.
The Bulldogs will open the regular season at home the following Friday by hosting Ridgeland - Hardeeville High School. It will be the first of three consecutive home games for Marlboro County. They face rivals Cheraw and Scotland County the following Fridays.