After each of the past two football seasons, the same reader has left voice messages with me to share his opinion on area football.
The football in this area is not good, he says. If these teams were playing in any other region in the state, he said, they wouldn't be playoff teams.
Naysayers like the caller would point to 2008 region champ Evans High School's first-round playoff loss. This past season, Lakeside's historic playoff victory was chalked up by some to be the result of Statesboro being mired in a down year.
The coaches, players and fans around here have heard it. They'll have a chance to do something about it soon.
Defending Region 3-AAAA football champ Lakeside and 2008 champ Evans are scheduled for 2010 to play South Carolina power North Augusta, which has its own convincing to do regarding its strength of schedule.
The Yellow Jackets' playoff seeding was hurt last season because of a points system that takes into account strength of schedule. The points system might be a good idea, but North Augusta coach Dan Pippin has decided his team won't be shorted again.
The Yellow Jackets have crossed over before. They won 30-6 at Richmond Academy in September.
"It will be a good challenge for us," Lakeside coach Jody Grooms said. "It will be a real good test, going against what I think is one of the premier programs in the state of South Carolina."
If football fans want to continue the debate about the strength of area football, or if Columbia County players and coaches feel the need to make a statement, next football season will provide the opportunity. A North Augusta sweep would surely bring out the detractors.
I don't get the debate. I don't understand why I continue receiving these type messages on my voice mail.
Why not appreciate accomplishments, even if they are relative to the area?
Lakeside and Evans are the past two Region 3-AAAA football champs. In their region, they were the best. Can we not leave it at that?
The argument is similar to the SEC-ACC arguments that inevitably spring up each year. Southeastern Conference fans, for the most part, preach their league's dominance over their coastal counterparts nearly every football season. The loudest go away the remainder of the year.
The ACC is to basketball what the SEC is to football. With the exception of University of Kentucky basketball fans, who in my experience have proved to be delusional, most people understand that.
Each area of the state is going to have its different strengths as far as prep sports go. Columbia County's tradition is in baseball. Its strength is also in softball, tennis, swimming and golf. To call out its football shortcomings comes across like the cheetah I watched pick off the weakest gazelle on Animal Planet last week -- a cheap shot.
I get that debate is what drives sports fans. And that in the end, people want debates settled on the field.
Evans and Lakeside will have their chance soon, but Lakeside's Grooms shared the proper perspective.
"It's not a game that's going to make or break our season or make or break theirs," Grooms said of his impending matchup at North Augusta. "It's just one of those games that needs to be played, with the schools as close as they are."
Walker Bottomley made his first hole-in-one Dec. 22 at Jones Creek.
The 12-year-old's ace came during an Augusta Junior Golf Magazine tournament. Bottomley, a sixth-grader at Stallings Island Middle, chose a 9-iron on the 102-yard, par-3 second hole.
His ball landed past the flag and backed up into the hole. Bottomley won his age group with 78. Jones Creek is his home course.
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