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Aiken County teams prepare for start of high school football

Lightning, heat and humidity have not been kind to local football programs in the past few days, with Aiken County's high schools looking to prepare for head-to-head action. Area teams are getting ready to take part in the pigskin pageantry on Friday evenings in the fall. 

One of the newest kids on the block, in terms of local experience, is Matt Quinn. Quinn is heading into his first season as North Augusta's head coach. His most recent post was as the head coach at Westwood High School in Blythewood, a suburb of Columbia.

Head coach De'Angelo Bryant, in terms of recent success, rules the roost, as his Silver Bluff squad rolled to an undefeated regular season. They came within four quarters of a state title at the AA level, racking up a 11-1 record, only being bested by Gray Collegiate.

Aiken County's football jamboree is set for Aug. 12 at Silver Bluff High School, starting at 6 p.m. The first quarter is to have Aiken taking on Ridge Spring-Monetta, and the second, at 6:45 p.m., is to have Midland Valley face Wagener-Salley.

Fox Creek is to take on South Aiken in the third quarter at 7:30 p.m.; and the final frame is to have North Augusta vs. Silver Bluff at 8:15 p.m.

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"The one luxury with South Carolina is we have spring practices and most people are doing summer workouts as well, so even though you just really started fall camp, most places have been going at it for months now," said Earl Chaptman, Midland Valley's head coach.

"Yeah, there's some guys that you have to get caught up, if you have transfers, or your upcoming freshmen are a little bit behind, but most of your returning guys usually have an idea at least of what your base scheme is, and then any tweaks that you have from there, you have to teach that."

Brian Smith, Ridge Spring-Monetta's head coach, also addressed the moment.

"Right now, it's getting to know who we are as a team, and the heat and the lightning and all that right now," he said, noting that all of his team's activities this week were shortened due to weather-related requirements. 

Midland Valley and Ridge Spring-Monetta faced each other Thursday morning on the Mustangs' turf. Plans had been for a two-hour scrimmage, but it was shortened to one due to the combination of heat and humidity, Smith noted.  

Rebuilding is a major concept this year for Lemuel Lackey, Fox Creek's head coach. "We lost an awful lot last year – probably nine on offense, and about seven on defense – so that was a lot of experience, but right now, we're just trying to find our fit and get the kids to understand … that next step for them, stepping up and being the next guy in line. That's where we are right now." 

Lackey's bunch, which has Lions Field as its base for home football games, has a new asset in place for the season ahead, in the form of "a really super-nice turf field," the coach said. The Predators are looking to play home football games on their own campus in a couple of years, once a stadium is built. 

Fox Creek's trainer, Christina Smith, confirmed that "hydration and eating breakfast" are parts of the message that she tries to emphasize to players. "If you don't put fuel in a car, the car will inevitably shut down," she noted.

The Predators, in an effort to reduce heat exposure, have had practices this week from 8-10 a.m., followed by about 45 minutes indoors in the weight room. A portable tent, to provide some shade during practice, is also part of the August layout.