LUMBERTON — For the first time in the Battle of the Carolinas Football Jamboree’s four-year history, the Eagles of East Bladen will not be playing in the lead-off game.
Ten high school football coaches from the region came to Lumberton on Friday to kick off the road to the fourth annual event at Lumberton High, which will be held on Thursday, Aug. 9. As always, five scrimmage games will be on the schedule, four of which will pit a North Carolina team against a South Carolina team.
The other game will see two North Carolina teams square off, which is where Class 2-A East Bladen comes in. The Eagles will play the third game of the evening, set for 7 p.m, against Class 4-A Purnell Swett, which finished 5-7 last season.
“Maybe it’ll be cooler then,” joked East Bladen assistant coach Terry Smith, who was attending in place of head coach Robby Priest. “But it doesn’t matter who we play, as long as it’s not against a team in our conference.”
East Bladen is 1-2 in the Jamboree. The Eagles lost to Latta, S.C., 8-7 in 2015; they lost to eventual Class 4-A state champion Scotland County 28-0 in 2016; and they defeated Latta, S.C., in 2017 by a 12-8 score.
Red Springs is slated to open the evening against Latta, S.C., at 5 p.m.; Fairmont will take on Lake View, S.C., at 6 p.m.; Scotland County will face Dillon, S.C., at 8 p.m.; and host Lumberton will play Marion, S.C., at 9 p.m.
West Brunswick and Marlboro County, S.C., played last year but dropped out of the Jamboree, opening the door for Red Springs and Marion, S.C.
“It’s a really good jamboree, probably one of the best, and we’re happy to put ourselves up against bigger, better competition — especially since we are opening the regular season against the likes of Clinton, South Columbus and Whiteville,” Smith said. “And it’s always good to be able to see some of those other teams.
The Eagles, who earned a Three Rivers Conference co-championship last season and finished 12-2 overall, will be looking to reload this fall after the graduation of 17 seniors — including a majority of its skill players. East Bladen will return three offensive and three defensive starters, a couple of which are two-way players.
“We have lots of holes to fill,” Smith said. “But we’re starting to see what the rising juniors and seniors can do. There’s no learning curve, because they all know the system. It’s all about execution now.”
As for the Jamboree, most coaches present agreed that the Battle of the Carolinas “is a real good experience” and are looking forward to this one.
“We have a couple of new teams, but we certainly hope to continue the tradition started a few years ago,” said Lumberton Athletics Director Mackie Register. He also said there have been discussions about possibly expanding the field to include more teams and even the number from each state — which could create a two-day event — but nothing solid has been put in place yet.
“It’s tough getting South Carolina teams, to be honest,” he said.
Each of the teams were given 100 tickets to sell for $5 each, and could keep what they sold. In addition, each school would be given another $1,000 — split into two $500 payments — for participating in the Jamboree.
W. Curt Vincent can b e reached at 910-862-4163 or firstname.lastname@example.org.