Thank goodness we all survived signing day and all the hype surrounding that national holiday. Now hopefully we can start looking forward to the spring practices and the August two-a-days and then onto opening night. Looks like opening night will be August 25 this year so we are exactly 6 ½ months to the start of the season.
As a fan of high school football in the great state of South Carolina for over 30 years, I have seen quite a few games and quite a few high school football stadiums. I am told that I saw my first high school game when I was 10 days old. My dad took me over to Kellytown to see the Hartsville Red Foxes play. I can honestly say that I don't remember a thing about the game but it did start a tradition that continues today.
My dad is still my favorite companion to see a game with and over the past 33 years, we have traveled many back roads in South Carolina to attend High School Football. Today the tradition continues as I take my sons, Alex and Hunter, to watch the Tigers, Cavaliers, Yellow Jackets, and Vikings and assorted other teams battle on Friday night. There is nothing like instilling the love of football into your sons and watching them fall in love with the game and pageantry of high school football. It is a Friday night family affair for the whole clan in my house.
Having said all that, I though it would be fun to identify the best and worse places in the state to see a high school football game. Let me say first of all state that this list is totally subjective and totally incomplete. While I feel that I am somewhat qualified to do this list, I realize that I have not seen every school play and have not visited every stadium. It is prejudiced but that is what makes it fun.
I do claim however to have visited more stadiums than most people. I can count visits to 102 South Carolina High School campuses to watch a high school game. Most are in the Upstate where I grew up, but in the past few years I have lived in Columbia and have visited many schools in the Midlands and in the Low Country.
I based my ranking on community support, fan involvement, game atmosphere and traditions. I also took into account the layout of the stadium, how well the visitor's stands were located, since in most cases that is where I viewed the game on that particular night.
In some cases I may have discounted an experience as being bad since the particular game I saw was bad or played in poor conditions. Like I said, the list here is produced based on what I know and what I experienced when visiting those schools.
Without any more waiting, here are my Top 5 and Bottom 5 school stadiums for high school football in the state.
1) Irmo High School and Perone Stadium in NE Richland County.
Inner city football in stadiums shared by 2 high schools is the worst possible scenario. I saw Dutch Fork last year play a "home game" on the campus of Irmo. Felt like I was watching a scrimmage on a neutral field. The same goes for Richland NE and Ridge View playing their home games at Spring Valley High School. Spring Valley is not their school and this is not their field. It is hard to fault the communities who fail to support the team when they do not have a field to call their own. I know money is tight for schools but it would sure help attendance and the schools to have the pride of their own home field.
2) Columbia High School at Memorial Stadium in Columbia.
Old, sterile, boring and lifeless. No fan support and too close to the downtown airport. It was awful. After watching a game there a few years back I realized football in the city of Columbia was a waste of time and we started traveling on Friday to watch decent games.
3) Spartanburg High School (brought to you live from Wofford College)
Why in the world this well-to-do high school has played at Wofford for over 50 years is a mystery to me. The new Wofford stadium is of course the nicest facility in the state for hosting high school football but why are they there ? Spartanburg should be ashamed of the fan support they receive. Even for the 2 Dorman games this year, the reserved section was not full
even though there were people looking for tickets out front. Spartanburg has never traveled well considering it size. The band is pathetic, the crowd lackadaisical, and the stadium is not even theirs. Never played a home game in 50 years. I have this thing about playing on campus or in your own stadium and Spartanburg is the worst offender.
Gibbs Stadium – Home of The WOFFORD TERRIERS
4) Macedonia High School I know it is not fair to pick on a school that does not exist anymore but my experience at Macedonia in 1995 was hilarious. We got down there around 7PM to watch Macedonia and the 3 time defending state champion Swansea Tigers. We found out when we drove up that Courtney Brown had hurt his hand during practice and would not play. Strike 1.
As we went into the stadium there were no seats on the visitor's side. I mean there were physically no seats. Someone had picked up the bleachers and carried them down to the baseball field. We had to go down to baseball field and carry them back up to the football field so we could sit down. I have heard of singing for your supper but this was ridiculous. Strike 2.
Midway through the game, a player went down with what turned out to be a broken leg. One of my friends sitting with me was an orthopedic resident at MUSC. He went down to the field to see if he could assist. I walked with him to see if he needed anything from his car. We were almost arrested by a cop who put his donut down long enough to tell us we were not supposed to be there. I know the school was closing soon but it was the worst high school stadium I had ever seen. Strike 3 and thank God they are out.
5) Gaffney High School
This stadium has a reputation of being dangerous for visitors. I guess it goes back to the Greenwood game back in the 1980's when some idiot set off a smoke bomb. My major complaint is the lousy parking and lack of seats for visitors. The visitor's side has old wooden bleachers that are only 6 rows high. No more than 500 people can sit on the away side. However Gaffney every year will entertain schools that will bring thousands and thousands of fans. Build a real stadium and give your visitors a chance to sit down and watch the game.
My Top 5 schools
1) Gaffney High School
Only a school like Gaffney could make my worst list and still be my number 1 stadium in the state for football. I love the way the town supports the team. Every business in town has a sign that says GO INDIANS. The smoke during the entrance is great. The stands are packed at least on the home side. I like the Indian and the cheerleaders. It is always a big game when you play Gaffney and it never seems to disappoint.
2) Hartsville High, Kellytown
Two years ago, my dad and I went back to Kellytown for the first time in 20 years to see a game. Hartsville may have been the worst football team I have ever seen in m