An Augusta Christian 21-14 win over Laurence Manning last Friday in the South Carolina Independent Schools Association state semifinals round wasn't exactly a victory of biblical proportions. But leave it up to Lions coach Bruce Lane to look to the Good Book for an inspiring pep talk.
Lane and the rest of the second-ranked Augusta Christian squad left for the state semifinals game in Manning, S.C., early Friday so they could make a stop in Orangeburg, S.C., at Oliver C. Dawson Stadium on the campus of South Carolina State University. The stadium is the location of the annual SCISA state championship game.
As the team piled into the seats surrounding the field, the biblical parallel took shape.
"The children of Israel sent spies out to see what the Promised Land was like, and that's what we did," Lane said. "We did our devotional in the stadium, but we wouldn't let our kids walk on the field. We told them that was the Promised Land, and we weren't ready to enter. We had one more stop."
Augusta Christian faced Laurence Manning and earned the right to play in the state title game with a seven-point road victory. The win came thanks to two touchdown passes from quarterback Tyler Bourdo to Evan Wells and Josh Whitaker, and a 1-yard score on the ground from senior Kyle Meeks.
Meeks said the unusual pregame tactic was a motivational factor in the fight to get back to the state title game.
"It gave us a little preview of what could happen if we won this game, but we didn't get to walk on the field," he said. "It was a good encouragement."
The Lions, who won their first football state championship last season at the South Carolina State stadium, will return to their gridiron Promised Land - this time to face SCISA No. 1 Hammond on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The Lions faced Hammond earlier this season on the road and came away with a 21-6 loss.
"We had a hard time against them last time, but the weather played a huge part in that last game," Meeks said.
"It was pouring down rain, and we couldn't play our full game. It's definitely going to be a good game this time. Hammond's a great team," he said.
There is one clear factor that both teams will have to deal with Friday night: The playing field at Oliver C. Dawson Stadium is carpeted with FieldTurf.
Most of the Lions have never played on the enhanced artificial turf, but Lane said he hoped to schedule a practice on the stadium's field to acclimate the team to the foreign footing.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.