FLORENCE, S.C. -- Each of the three Florence One high schools will host an on-campus football game this season.
Wilson's will be Sept. 13 against Lower Richland, South Florence's is Oct. 4 vs. St. James, and West Florence's is Oct. 18 vs. Socastee. The games will be on fields the schools play JV football and soccer on.
The rest of this year's regular-season home games for the three high schools are at Memorial Stadium, which was built in 1949.
By having an on-campus game Oct. 4, South Florence doesn't have to be locked into its originally scheduled Memorial Stadium date of Oct. 3 (a Thursday) against St. James since Wilson is scheduled to host Darlington at Memorial on Oct. 4.
Another date when two F1S schools are playing home games on the same night is Oct 18 when West Florence hosts Socastee. Also that night, Wilson hosts Hartsville at Memorial.
Football coaches and athletic directors are excited.
“I’m not even sure the last time a varsity football game was played here on the South side of town because I know Southside High School also played at Memorial Stadium at one point, as well,” South Florence athletic director Bob Wilson said. “We’re very excited about it and wanted something the community can rally around, and we really feel like this kind of thing can really help with community support and give a little community pride to the South Florence area.”
Count Wilson athletic director Derrick McQueen as also enthusiastic.
“It is definitely exciting,” McQueen said. “I don’t know the last time we had a game on campus at Wilson. But this year, we will.”
The same goes for Greg Johnson, West Florence athletic director.
“We’re really excited about it. I think anytime you can do something first is pretty cool,” Johnson said. “What an experience for our senior class to say we were the first ones to ever do it? Hopefully, we can get things rolling and build some momentum and hopefully do it more often.”
Because of postseason capacity requirements mandated by the South Carolina High School League, the three teams won’t be able to host on-campus playoff games.
For these three on-campus games, F1S’ three high schools want to make these as memorable as possible.
An F1S bond proposal that was rejected at the polls in February would have issued $198 million in general-obligation bonds to build and renovate schools – and build on-campus stadiums at the three high schools.
Among of the voters’ major complaints against the proposal were property tax hikes.
But through resilience, the three high schools now will have an on-campus game complete with field decorations in their own school colors.
“We’re also looking forward to playing an opponent in a game where we’re not on the road,” South Florence football coach David Prince said. “There’s a certain level of comfort that comes with playing at your own place.”
But Prince added it goes beyond that.
“It’s such a different level of comfort to just walk out the back door of our locker room and go to the field right there,” Prince said. “We don’t have to haul equipment or pull a trailer or any of those things.
“I hate to use the word, but it’s kind of like being at home,” he added. “It’s going to be good for the community.”
Of course, when the high schools make the transition, one logistical challenge is expanding the capacity for their on-campus games.
“We have to bring in some more bleachers and some other things have to be worked out,” said Wilson, adding that South Florence would not have a capacity estimate for its on-campus game until those challenges are solved.
“There are also stuff like having enough bathrooms and concession stands to service everybody that are very important,” Johnson added. “Although I feel like it’s a challenge, it’s something we have got to do to see if we can do it.”