DARLINGTON, S.C. – Jared Amell knows where he wants his team to wind up at the end of the season – one game further than it did a year ago.
In order to do that, the Trinity-Byrnes Collegiate School coach is making sure his squad will be tested, to say the least.
“We certainly accomplished a tough schedule,” Amell said. “We go 3A (school), North Carolina state championship (team) and then another 3A. So our schedule is definitely difficult, and I think that’s something that will be good for us.
“…For us it’s really important to be stress-tested. We want to know if we have any leaks and where our holes are, and playing against (lesser) teams, you don’t necessarily get to see that.”
The early-season gantlet actually begins Friday as the Titans will kick the season off a week earlier than anyone else with a trip to Charleston to face First Baptist at 7:30 p.m.
“Fortunately for us, we’ve made a couple trips to Alabama the last four years and were forced to play on this date, so we were kind of used to playing early,” Amell said. “It’s a little earlier than you would like. You know you’re not going to be completely in game shape, but you have to treat it – to an extent – like a glorified scrimmage.”
It won’t be an easy opener as the Hurricanes have played for the SCISA state championship each of the last three seasons – winning back-to-back 2A titles from 2016-17 before falling to Hammond in last year’s 3A championship contest.
First Baptist also defeated T-B in 2017 to win the title.
“We’ve played them three out of the last four years, and when we’ve had success against them, we’ve run for over 300 yards in two of those games,” Amell said. “That’s the key to our success – controlling the ball and slowing the game down. If we run for 280-300 yards, it will be a good ball game. If we can’t establish the run and leave their offense on the field all night, it’s probably going to be a long evening.”
The Titans won’t have to worry about running back Michel Dukes, who ran for more than 2,000 yards and 29 touchdowns last season before graduating and heading to Clemson.
Still, the ‘Canes possess a pair of strong running backs and a lot of weapons on offense, Amell said.
“If you talk to their coach (Johnny Waters), they’re deeper than they’ve ever been; their receiving corps is better than it’s ever been and they’ve got the best quarterback he’s had since he’s been at First Baptist (Bishop England transfer Will Daniel).
“There’s no doubt they’ve reloaded, and it will certainly be everything we want as a test.”
While the regular season begins for the Titans, Friday also features a number of jamborees across the Pee Dee area – including the Florence Jamboree at Memorial Stadium.
The evening features four games between seven local high schools as well as Scott’s Branch.
Defending SCISA 2A state champion Florence Christian School will kick things off at 7 p.m. against The King’s Academy followed by C.E. Murray against Wilson at 7:45 p.m.
South Florence takes on Scott’s Branch at 8:30 p.m. before West Florence and Hartsville match up in the finale at 9:15 p.m.
Each team will play two 12-minute quarters with everything live except special teams. There will be no overtime and each team begins play on its own 25-yard line.
Admission is $7.
Also in Florence County, Lake City hosts its own jamboree at Ward Memorial Stadium beginning at 6 p.m. Timmonsville will face Hannah-Pamplico to start things off followed by Johnsonville and East Clarendon an hour later.
The final game of the night will have the host Panthers taking on Georgetown at 8 p.m.
Moving up to Bennettsville, the Dennis Miller Memorial Jamboree of Champions will see 14 teams compete at McAlpine Stadium.
There will be one hour between each contest. Marion and Carvers Bay face off at 4 p.m. followed by Kingstree-Hemingway, Central-Mullins, Latta-Chesterfield, Lake View-Cheraw, Darlington-Dillon and finally Lamar and Marlboro County closing things out at 10 p.m.