The Ninety Six football team had to rally and battle sickness on photo day.
A stomach bug spread to about half of the team over the course of last week. The Wildcats met Friday afternoon for the team photo, and some of the players took longer in the locker room putting on their uniforms because they were still feeling nauseous and achy.
The Wildcats eventually bunched together in the assembled rows at Wilson-Campbell Stadium and put on a smile for the picture. After the photo was taken, some ill-feeling players scattered to the benches or rushed for water as they continued to try and recover.
Photo day was complete, but it still wasn’t time to rest. Ninety Six had to prepare for its preseason matchup against McCormick in the WCTEL Kicoff Classic at Abbeville High School later that night. Ninety Six coach Matthew Owings already knew a few starters weren’t going to be available to him.
Could you really blame the Wildcats if they came out sluggish and lethargic?
But they didn’t. In fact, Ninety Six had a strong showing in its 6-6 tie with McCormick. The Wildcats debuted new players at several positions, including running back.
Ninety Six lost a pair of standout running backs to graduation, but handed the ball off to Josh Booker, Jakalin Pendermon and George Nicholson, who all had strong showings against a McCormick team that’s garnered high expectations this season in Region 1-1A.
The Wildcats opened the game with a 15-play drive that resulted in a one-yard touchdown run from Nicholson, who finished with 37 rushing yards.
Booker, the top returning skills player for the Wildcats, broke out for a 31-yard gain on another drive. He finished with 43 yards. Pendermon ran for 34 yards.
It was a truly impressive showing for Ninety Six in its first game action under the first-year coach Owings, especially considering the stomach bug the team battled to overcome.
There were two other matchups in the WCTEL Classic, including Abbeville against Belton-Honea Path, and Dixie against Calhoun Falls — a game in which the Flashes showed plenty of fight in a near upset victory.
Calhoun Falls was 10 yards away from the end zone in the final minute of the game, but couldn’t score on fourth down and lost 14-8. Some returning players on the Flashes were visibly upset after shaking hands with the Hornets.
The Flashes will enter the regular season on an 18-game losing streak. They’re just simply tired of losing.
Calhoun Falls coach Chris Watts has harped on the message of wanting his players to invest and maintain a positive attitude. That’s the only way the program will make a turnaround and build a winning culture.
The Flashes’ strong effort against the reigning Region 1-1A champs could be an indication that they’re headed in the right direction.
Contact sports writer Wesley Dotson at 864-943-2530.