LUMBERTON — In 2015, Lumberton High School hosted the inaugural Battle of the Carolinas Football Classic, drawing rave reviews from high school football coaches that participated in the event.
For Dillon coach Jackie Hayes, the solid start sets the mark for years to come.
“I thought last year was just incredible — all I heard were compliments the whole time,” said Hayes, who has led the Wildcats to four straight state titles.
“I’ve been doing this 32 years and that was as good or better than any jamboree I’ve been to. It was big last year and it’ll be even bigger every year.”
On Friday, coaches from North Carolina and South Carolina gathered to discuss the state of their squads ahead of the second annual jamboree, scheduled for Aug. 10 at Alton Brooks Stadium.
“It went so smooth last year that it kind of scared me,” said Mackie Register, Lumberton’s director of athletics. “We hope it’s even better.”
Fairmont coach Mark Heil also praised the success of the event.
“This is a great thing that we’ve put together for both of the states,” Heil said. “It went really well last year and it’s getting bigger and better. I’m excited because it’s a challenge.”
Lumberton, Fairmont and Purnell Swett will represent the county in the event. Other regional teams include Scotland, East Bladen and West Brunswick. Dillon, Latta, Lakeview and Marlboro will travel from South Carolina to participate.
Fairmont and Lakeview will kick things off at 5 p.m., followed at 6 p.m. by Scotland and East Bladen. West Brunswick and Latta will battle at 7 p.m., before the late games that include Purnell Swett vs. Dillon at 8 p.m. and Lumberton vs. Marlboro at 9 p.m.
With Scotland joining the mix, the event will now feature two traditional powerhouse programs.
“When you’re able to field Dillon and Scotland in the same place, it makes the event that much better,” said Lumberton coach Mike Setzer. “It’s really good for our kids to see such programs — and for the community to see what it takes. I’m really looking forward to this year.”
For Scotland coach Richard Bailey, participating in the event was an easy choice.
“I really heard good things about this (event),” Bailey said. “I felt loyalty to Mackie and the (Southeastern) Conference. He asked us to play and we’re excited to come do this.”
Robbie Brown represented Purnell Swett at the press conference. Brown, the former offensive coordinator at Dillon during the Wildcats’ four straight state championships, was brought on during the offseason to provide the same coaching role for the Rams.
The event will be an unofficial homecoming for the Robeson County native.
“I think this is a great thing,” Brown said. “I grew up in Rowland and went to college at UNCP. I’m excited to be back. I treasured the 29 years I had with Coach Hayes, but it’s good to be home.”
Each of the five scrimmages will consist of two 15-minute quarters, starting with the ball placed on the 30-yard line. Each team will have two timeouts — one each quarter — and play will be like a standard football game outside of the kicking game. Teams will not face opposition when kicking in order to avoid injuries.
The 10 schools will share the money raised by the event. Each school will get discounted tickets for sale in advance of the event with all money going back to the school. Ticket revenue at the gate, which will jump from $5 to $7, will be split between the teams after expenses are paid.
James Granger, an organizer of the event, said the scrimmage is a good appetizer ahead of the regular season.
“It’s a big deal for this community,” Granger said. “There’s not a lot going on (in August). Having schools like the caliber we have here provides folks the chance to watch some good football.”
In the case of a bad weather, the make-up date for the event will be Aug. 11. The regular season opens on Aug. 19.
Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182. Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.