ELIZABETHTOWN — High-school football fans in Bladen County will get the 2014 gridiron season kicked off on Friday when East Bladen High School hosts the fifth annual Buddy Burney Memorial Jamboree sponsored by Four County Electric.
The event will feature both of the Bladen County varsity teams, East Bladen and West Bladen, as well as the varsities from St. Pauls High and West Columbus High.
“We are very fortunate to have Four County sponsor this event, and we look forward to our first night of football at Lenon Fisher Stadium,” said East Bladen Athletics Director Patty Evers.
The Jamboree, which has seen its format change slightly from past years, will open at 7 p.m. with the host Eagles facing St. Pauls at one end of the field, while the Knights will take on West Columbus at the other end.
The teams will scrimmage until 8 p.m., with each offense getting 10 plays per series. After a 15-minute break, the scrimmage will continue until 9 p.m. with the same two matchups.
Admission to the event is $6 and no coolers will be allowed. The concession stand will be open.
The Knights will be making their second straight trip to East Bladen for the Jamboree, but only because last year’s event at West Bladen was rained out.
“We were disappointed, but we still got our work in and had a good season,” West Bladen coach Russell Dove said.
This year, the Knights are looking to continue their success, and the Jamboree is one step toward that goal.
“When we get to this point, we have a pretty good idea where we’re at and who will be playing where,” Dove said. “So it’s a chance to see some of the younger players play and maybe try some different combinations.”
Dove added that, during the Jamboree, it’s more about personnel than it is working on new plays.
“For us, we don’t like to show too much, so we stay very vanilla in scrimmages,” he said. “We’ll be real basic and stay disciplined in our assignments.”
With the season-opener at South Robeson High just a week after the Jamboree, Dove said he isn’t concerned about injuries.
“We can’t be worried about that,” he said. “Usually, those things happen when you aren’t playing hard, so we want the kids to go out and play each down hard.
“Overall, the scrimmages are good, and the kids want to see another color jersey on the other side,” he added.
The Eagles didn’t miss a beat last season when the Jamboree was rained out, getting West Columbus to visit Lenon Fisher Stadium for a last-minute scrimmage.
“We needed the work,” East Bladen coach Robby Priest said. “The kids look forward to these scrimmages.”
This year’s Jamboree is expected to also benefit the coaching staff, Priest said.
“We’ll get to see a spread offense (from St. Pauls), much like we’ll see against Fairmont the week after in the season opener,” he said. “So that’s helpful for us. Hopefully we’ll get to see where our weaknesses are, and have a week to work on them.”
Last season, East Bladen’s varsity roster was whittled to 21 players for various reasons. But this year, Priest said the numbers are up to about 35.
“We only have a few question marks and a lot more depth than we had last year,” he said. “I like where we are this year.”
As for the Jamboree, Priest said he’s not concerned with what his Eagles show or potential injuries.
“We’re going in wanting to make sure everything works,” Priest said. “And we’ll be a run-first team, like always, and most teams already know that. We’ll work on some passes just to keep the defenses honest, but we’re going to be running the ball — and hopefully throw when we want to, not when it’s the only option.
“As far as injuries, they usually happen most when you worry about them, so we can’t do that,” he added.