When William Wineberg moved from Pittsburgh to the Lowcountry about a decade ago, the Sertoma Football Classic was unlike anything he had ever seen.
For the Northerner, the tri-county jamboree was a powerful showing of how competitive high school football is in the South, and how multiple communities come together for the sake of the sport.
“It was special to me,” said Wineberg, the head football coach at West Ashley High School. “The Berkeley and Dorchester jamborees kind of killed it, but I’m excited about the future.”
The future started Friday night when six Charleston County teams scrimmaged at West Ashley High, sparking a new tradition in the place of Sertoma.
Establishing a separate event was a necessity, said Anthony Sterling, the head football coach at Burke High. Dorchester County held its fourth annual jamboree on Friday and Berkeley County had its second.
Over the years, schools from both had been pulling out of Sertoma to grow the jamborees in their respective areas, prompting Sertoma officials to close up shop after 48 years of kicking off the area football season.
Trent Townsend, a Lowcountry native remembers going to Sertoma every year during his grade school days. Friday, he leaned on the fence at West Ashley field to watch his son play linebacker for Burke.
The Bulldogs bested Military Magnet 32-0 on Friday. Then, Timberland took care of Baptist Hill in a 33-6 contest, followed by West Ashley's 21-6 victory over Stall.
The short games were good to watch, but they were a far cry from the peak of Sertoma, said Townsend.
“That was a big event,” he said. “I wish they still had it. But it’s good that they have something for the kids. Hopefully it will grow and we’ll get bigger turnouts.”
Sterling is pushing for the same thing. Starting the season with a significant event gives his players a solid look at their strengths and weaknesses before the season starts.
“It also gets the fans a little more involved too,” he added. “It appeared that morale was down because we didn’t have a Sertoma. So hopefully, we have something here that is sustainable and draws more people out.”
The plan for now is to alternate the Charleston County event each year between James Island, Wando and West Ashley. Like Sterling, Wineberg is optimistic that the event can prosper more and more each year.
“I feel like if we didn’t have it, it would be neglecting our community and our district,” he added. “We need that authentic game experience to kick off the season, and I think we're off to a good start.”