LUMBERTON — Robeson County will have three of its football teams represented at the inaugural Battle of the Carolinas Football Classic this fall at Lumberton High School.
The new event, scheduled for Aug. 13 at Alton Brooks Stadium, will feature eight teams competing in three scrimmages, pitting a North Carolina team against a South Carolina team.
Lumberton, Fairmont and Purnell Swett are among the squads taking part in the new event. Other regional teams include West Brunswick and East Bladen. Dillon, Latta and Lakeview will all travel from South Carolina to participate.
On Friday, the football coaches from each school came together for a press conference at Lumberton High School.
“We’re really excited,” Lumberton athletics director Register said. “We’re hoping this is going to be a big event, an annual event that grows into a two-day deal for next year. I think it’s a great opportunity for our communities to come together. It’s a win-win for all the schools involved. We want to get people excited in this area about football and this is a big step in that direction.”
Coaches offered remarks about their teams and their thoughts on the inaugural scrimmage.
Mike Setzer, Lumberton’s head football coach, gave credit to Dillon coach Jackie Hayes for spearheading the event.
“Without (Coach Hayes) this event wouldn’t be possible,” Setzer said. “Months and months ago (the coaches) went to him about this thing and he was able to bring this dream of ours to fruition. We’re looking forward to this being a big time event for years to come.”
The night will begin with East Bladen against Latta at 6 p.m., followed by Fairmont vs. Lakeview at 7. The late scrimmages will include Purnell Swett vs. West Brunswick at 8 and Lumberton vs. Dillon at 9.
Each game will consist of two 15-minute quarters, starting with the ball placed on the thirty-yard line. Each team will have two timeouts 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.
Hayes recalled his team competing in a similar tournament years ago that featured teams from the region.
“We used to have something called the Battle of the Border,” Hayes said. “It was big. We want to try to bring that atmosphere back. It’s a good opportunity to make money for your football program.”
The eight schools will share the money raised by the event. Each school will get 200 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.
Jon Sherman, first-year coach at Purnell Swett, is looking forward to battling against some of the teams he grew up around.
“My family is from South Carolina and my dad lives in Greenville right now,” Sherman said. “I know a lot about South Carolina (high school) football. It’s a great opportunity for both states to get together.”
Fairmont was represented by assistant coaches, Matt Hunt and Lonnie Cox, who were there in place of interim head coach Mark Heil. Heil had previous plans with his family prior to the scheduling of the press conference.
The long term plan is to expand the event into multiple nights to accommodate more teams that want to participate.
For James Granger, an organizer of the event, the scrimmage offers a chance to display the support each community. He challenged the communities with his closing remarks.
“We need you to come out and support your teams and support your communities,” Granger said. “It’s a rare opportunity to get eight different communities together from two different states at one time. This goes to benefit these schools. We look forward to seeing you Aug. 13.”