Finding Mudville: Football road trip
I do this every summer on the first day of fall football practice.
I roll out of bed and hop in the car to begin a 90-minute trip around Lake Moultrie to take in the first day of football practice for Berkeley, Cross and Timberland.
Since 2009, this part of Berkeley County has crowned a state champ in three out of the last four years … Berkeley in 2009, Timberland in 2011 and Cross in 2012. Say what you will but the road to a state championship runs through this rural portion of Berkeley County.
The humidity at 8:15 in the morning clung like a wet sweater. Shoes, like my size 14½ Duck boots, sunk up to the ankle in the syrupy muck. The Stags were already at it on the Berkeley practice fields, running through drills with the large digital clock counting down the time from the third base bleachers of the baseball field.
I was already soaked in sweat from the 30-yard walk from the air-conditioned comfort of my car, and the only part of my body engaged in any strenuous activity was my right index finger working the camera shutter to take four-to-five dozen photos.
Back in the car, my coffee went out the window and before heading up to Cross, I stopped for sausage biscuits and a Diet Coke. Rough morning workouts like this, a man needs to keep up his energy level.
At Cross, the reminder of loss hung over the practice field like the haze drifting off the lake. Just three weeks have gone by since the passing of coach Antonio Simmons. While Shaun Wright and his Trojans want to focus on the upcoming season, they know Simmons’ absence must be dealt with.
“We needed this practice,” Wright said. “The kids came out with great attitudes and enthusiasm. It made it good for us adults to see that the kids were ready to get back to where we left off.”
Repeating in high school football is a difficult process. It takes as much luck as it does talent to survive the state playoffs unscathed.
“We want to do it for Coach Simmons,” said Cross all-state running back Dionte Evans. “He wanted us to do it again.”
With the much-needed first practice under their belts the Trojans can now focus on that matter at hand. With a trio of offensive threats in Devontae Shepherd and the Evans twins, Dionte and Diamonte, Cross has the tools to make another successful run to Columbia. Now, they just need a little bit of that luck.
Early morning traffic along the top end of Lake Moultrie was non-existent at 9:30 and I stopped on the bridge crossing the Diversion Canal linking Moultrie to Lake Marion and took a few pictures.
At Timberland, a light haze hovered over the practice field, or maybe that was my glasses fogging up. The Wolves ran through passing and running drills. This is a young Wolves’ team, light on seniors, but you know the saying at Timberland … they don’t rebuild, they simply reload.
With the first week of practice in the books, the preseason scrimmages start this week and the countdown to the Sertoma Classic for Berkeley and Week Zero of the regular season for Timberland and Cross has begun in earnest.
Just 16 days and counting until kickoff, and I can’t wait.