Sertoma Classic ponders future

The Sertoma Classic is set for Aug. 21-22 at The Citadel's Johnson Hagood Stadium. (Paul Zoeller/Staff)

The Sertoma Football Classic celebrates its 44th edition next month, and has raised almost $4 million for its charities over that time.

But the Lowcountry institution, which annually signals the start of the high school season, is pondering some changes as it tries to thrive in the changing landscape of high school football.

Sertoma Classic chairman Danny Gilbert on Tuesday announced this year's schedule, with six matchups set for Aug. 21 and six more for Aug. 22 at The Citadel's Johnson Hagood Stadium.

The first night is highlighted by matchups pitting Hanahan against Summerville, Stratford vs. Timberland and Goose Creek against West Ashley. The second night will be capped by Wando battling Bishop England in a two-quarter matchup.

But missing from this year's Classic are Lowcountry schools Fort Dorchester, Berkeley, Woodland, Ashley Ridge and Colleton County.

Increasingly, the Sertoma Classic is facing conflicts as more schools schedule so-called "Week Zero" games for the same week as the Classic.

For example, Berkeley is playing host to Johnsonville on Aug. 22, while Ashley Ridge plays host to Woodland and Fort Dorchester is at South Florence. Playing "Week Zero" games (Week One is Aug. 29) allows coaches to fit in an open date during the season.

"It's a real challenge now, because teams have their various needs, and it's a challenge to put things together," Gilbert said. "Now, we've got the Week Zero issue, which a lot more teams are opting to do. It's a conflict, but I think we'll resolve that by next year and have a good handle on it."

Gilbert said that among the options he's looking at is playing the Sertoma Classic earlier in the week.

"Next year, we think a Tuesday-Wednesday or Wednesday-Thursday schedule should do the trick," Gilbert said.

Sertoma officials are also looking at putting together a big regular-season matchup as part of the Classic.

"We've been working on that," Gilbert said. "But we've got to get way ahead on that. We approached teams at the playoffs last year, but they are making their schedules way in advance. We'd love to have a real game as part of this; that'd be super."

Meanwhile, the 44th Sertoma Classic will offer a first look at some key storylines for the season.

Summerville coach John McKissick, 87, is back for his 63rd season with the Green Wave, touted as a state title contender this year. Stratford will have a new coach (Joe Marion) and a new quarterback after losing legendary coach Ray Stackley to retirement and All-America QB Jacob Park to Georgia; a two-quarter matchup with Timberland will be a real test.

And Thursday night's two-quarter matchup between West Ashley and Goose Creek should be interesting. The Gators' new QB is Pedro Manigault, who played the position for West Ashley last season before transferring to Goose Creek.