First Baptist's move to 8-man football appears to be just what the struggling program needed.
“It's a hoot,” said coach Will McCombs, whose team is 7-0 after suffering through three consecutive winless seasons playing SCISA 11-man football.
“It's been fun,” McCombs said. “We hadn't won a game in three years, so it was sort of like beating our heads against a wall. We were down to 12 men last year and had to forfeit some games because of injuries. We were going in just hoping to stay alive rather than winning or losing.”
First Baptist decided to make the move last winter. The Hurricanes are playing an independent schedule because SCISA rules don't allow members to compete in 8-man football if the school has more than 45 boys in grades 9-12.
“We have 60 to 70 boys, but the kids were not interested in playing football,” McCombs said. “We didn't have a chance, couldn't catch our breath in 11-man football and it affected interest. Now, we are generating more interest. We have 18 players and there is an excitement in the air. The only thing is playing as an independent means we're traveling all over God's green earth to play football.”
First Baptist travels to Faith Baptist outside of Savannah on Friday. Next week, there's a trip to the Upstate to play Fountain Inn Christian. The Hurricanes close the regular season with a home game against Coastal School, which in Pembroke, Ga.
The Hurricanes have an excellent basketball team, and one of its star players, Bradford Allen, has played a key role in changing the football team's fortunes.
“He gives us another level of speed,” McCombs said. “We use him as a wide receiver, kick return man and use him on reverses.”
Senior quarterback Trent Keisler and defensive lineman/fullback Strom Altman have provided leadership. The team also got some much-needed help when running back Alex Frazier and his younger brother, Frankie, transferred from Stall.
The SCISA schedule and classification is locked in for two years, so the Hurricanes will play an independent schedule in 2013. The school will re-evaluate the program after that and could return to 11-man football.
The 25th annual Wando Invitational volleyball tournament is Friday and Saturday, and features some of the best teams in the state.
Play starts Friday and lasts from 4:30-8:30 p.m., then resumes at 8:30 a.m. Saturday. The playoffs begin at 2 p.m. Saturday.
The top teams include defending Class AAAA state champ Hillcrest and runner-up Aiken, Class AAA state champ Eastside and Class AA state champ Bishop England. SCISA state champ Porter-Gaud is also in the field.
The rest of the field includes Dorman, Lexington, Rock Hill, Bluffton, Wando, West Ashley, James Island, Hanahan, Summerville and First Baptist.
The SCISA state swimming championships are Saturday at the Augusta Aquatics Center. The meet starts at 10 a.m., and admission is $8 for adults and $4 for students.
The Volleyball Upper and Lower State playoffs will be held Oct. 18-20 at the Sumter Civic Center. The Class A state championship will be held Oct. 22, while the Class AA and AAA title matches will be held Oct. 23. The sites will be determined.
The girls state tennis championships will be Oct. 19-20 at the Palmetto Tennis Center in Sumter.
The state cross country meet will be held Oct. 27 at Heathwood Hall.
The 8-man football state championship will be held Nov. 16 at a site to be determined. The Class A, AA and AAA state football championships will be held Nov. 17 at Benedict College in Columbia, beginning at noon.
Follow Philip M. Bowman on Twitter: @pandcphil.
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