The playoffs are in full swing around South Carolina in high school football, and while Class AAAA teams were beginning the playoffs with long road trips, Class A upper and lower state championship game teams were being determined.
The action on the field was overshadowed by what happened in Union County. Union is a place that has had its troubles lately with arrests of current and former public officials as a corruption scandal heats up. High school football is often a great escape from such serious news.
However, with the home team Union County up on J.L. Mann, a stadium wall collapsed with students sitting on it and pressing up against it. Fortunately, the various published reports have no one with life threatening injuries. However, 28 were injured, and 12 were transported to a local hospital.
WSPA TV gives a good account of the story as it unfolded in the following video:
Again, VUI is thankful that there were not any life threatening injuries in Union County. That said, over the years covering high school football, we have been in some old and rickety stadiums and press boxes. Hopefully no one will start pointing fingers or blaming Union folks. By and large, attending a South Carolina High School League football game is a safe and family friendly thing to do. Accidents happen, and frankly, schools in Class AAA and below do not have the resources to have new stadiums built every few years. Further, people should note how calmly and quickly students, fans, and officials handled the incident.
Moving back to football, two games in the upstate stood out Friday night. Ware Shoals defeated Christ Church 40-14 in Ware Shoals in what VUI dubs the "real" upstate championship in Class A Divsion II. There are not that many Class A Division II teams that play in the upstate. Most schools in the category play in the lower midlands and the eastern part of the state. The Ware Shoals-Christ Church matchup was the true test of what Class A Division II program ruled the upstate of South Carolina.
Ware Shoals is probably the best team in Class A west of Columbia, period. They have an impressive offense and defense that has improved greatly. Playing a game against them in their home stadium, which is dimly lit and has loud fans, is something even bigger schools do not look forward to. Add to that Ware Shoal's game entrance, one of the most interesting in the state as they walk the balcony of the field house to smoke and music and run down the steps to the field. The old Ware Shoals field house looks like a prison.
That home field advantage and tradition will not be available to Ware Shoals as they travel about 90 miles to lower Aiken County next week to face Williston-Elko for the official Upper State Championship. Again, in the way Class A football is slanted towards the lower state, a team closer to Charleston than Greenville hosts the "upper" state title game.
In Class AAAA football, teams were traveling all over the place. One of the most interesting games of Friday night involved a team that traveled perhaps the longest to show up and play. James Island traveled all the way to northern Anderson County to upset Wren, 56-55 in overtime. That is right, 56-55. It was a storybook upset by the 4-8 James Island team to end what has been a storybook season for Wren.
James Island's win also hurts VUI's contention that Class AAAA should revise how it sets up playoffs because four or five hour bus rides to a game put the visiting teams at a real disadvantage and restrict parents and fans from going to the game. That said, James Island was the only Class AAAA team with a really long trip to win Friday night. It is simply a hardship on Class AAAA teams, parents and fans to have such long trips in playoff games. Afterall, SC High School League officials, Friday is both a school day and a work day.
Next week things get really interesting. Go out and enjoy a game.